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Bubba in command as McDowell hangs tough at Riviera

Rory McIlroy went backwards after a rare off day from tee to green but Graeme McDowell dug deep to lie just two shot behind Bubba Watson on a packed leaderboard at the Genesis Open.

The top 15 players are covered by just five strokes at Riviera Country Club, where left-hander Watson shot a six-under 65 to lead by a stroke on 10-under par from Patrick Cantlay, who made an outrageous 54-footer for birdie at the 18th in a grinding 69.

McDowell hit just seven fairways compared to 10 and 11 on the first two days, but he's third for scrambling after getting up and down six times out of eight on a low scoring day in Los Angeles.

With the Tour softening the greens a touch, the scoring average was 70.60 compared to 72.13 on Friday and 72.20 on Thursday. Scores


 
McIlroy shot a two-over 73, his challenge ending when he had to reload on the 12th and took six before dropping another shot after another pulled tee shot at the 15th to share 42nd on level par.

World No 1 Dustin Johnson, the defending champion, made a big move as he covered his homeward nine (the front nine) in six under 29 for a stunning 64 that leaves him just three off the lead in a tie for eighth on seven-under.

McDowell had enough with a one-under 70 to share third with the bogey-free Australian Cameron Smith, local favourite Kevin Na and big-hitting Tony Finau on eight-under par.

Chasing his fourth PGA Tour win and his first since 2015, he combined birdies at the second (22ft from off the green), 11th (10ft) and 17th (5ft) with bogeys at the par-three fourth and 16th before avoiding a three-putt from 12 feet at the last by solidly drilling home a six-footer after the excitement of Cantlay's long bomb.

It was an important mental test for the Portrush man, who has struggled to play consistently for four days in a row and while a win would put him in the Masters and catapult him as high as 64th in the world, he's not getting ahead of himself.



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