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Graeme McDowell
After admitting to being a bit unfocused on Thursday, Graeme McDowell said he was a lot more locked in on Friday. (Getty Images)

Strong back nine has McDowell liking his chances for second straight major

U.S. Open champion Graeme McDowell carded an inward 31 Friday, and is seven behind Louis Oosthuizen. There aren't many players ahead of him, though, and he's looking for a strong weekend.

By Melanie Hauser, PGATOUR.COM Correspondent

ST. ANDREWS, Scotland -- No expectations, no pressure.

That’s the way U.S. Open champ Graeme McDowell is approaching the weekend at St. Andrews. And his chance to win back-to-back majors.

"I’ve got myself in great position,” said McDowell, who shot 68 and heads into the weekend in a logjam at 5-under 139, 7 shots back of leader Louis Oosthiuzen.  "I’ll be out tomorrow and free swinging and just really trying to control the ball in this weather. The pins were tricky today.  I thought the greens were a little quicker, and I think the leaders are going to have a tough afternoon.

"I say the leaders, I mean Rory (McIlroy, the first-round leader at 9 under) and the guys that played yesterday afternoon,” he clarified. “I think the greens are going to be very, very tricky and treacherous, and I really don’t see Rory getting far past Louis in these conditions.”

McDowell’s win at the U.S. Open -- the first by a European since 1970 -- got the remainder of the UK/Ireland/Northern Ireland players, who make up seven of the top 15 players in the world, thinking they could start a major run. And McDowell looking at a possible 2-for-2.

"It’s weird saying I’m in contention when I’m seven back, but there’s not too many guys in front of me,” McDowell said. "I love the way I’m playing, so I think I can have a good weekend from here.”

He’s playing well, but not without mistakes. As in two careless -- his words -- three-putts on the front nine.

"I’ve had four three-putts now in two days, which is a little unlike me,” he said. "Played tough coming in.  I think I played the back nine in like 1 under par.  I birdied 16 and birdied the last, so really, really strong finish, really happy with that.  Got myself back in position. … My focus wasn’t where it needed to be yesterday but felt better today.”

McDowell and McIlroy high-fived each other as McIlroy headed to the tee and McDowell came off the course. McIlroy, he said, might need some with the wind beginning to kick up.

"There’s plenty of deep coffin‑likebunkers to bury wreckage in out there today,” McDowell said. "This is an interesting golf course because until the wind blows, the like of yesterday morning, the boys can go out there, and when you’ve got a driver in the bag like Rory has, there’s no trouble, you can just blow it over the trouble.  But when the wind gets up like this, it’s a different kind of fish, it really is.  It’ll be interesting to see how he handles himself this afternoon.”

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