By Helen Ross, PGATOUR.COM
CARMEL, Ind. -- Graeme McDowell certainly seems to have shaken off that two-stroke penalty he got on his last hole Thursday.
McDowell, who opened with a 68, has birdied three of his first five holes to move to 7 under early during the second round of the BMW Championship. That puts the Northern Irishman one stroke off the overnight lead held Webb Simpson, Bo Van Pelt, Rory McIlroy and Graham DeLaet, and joined by Vijay Singh with a birdie on his second hole Thursday.
McDowell called what happened at the par-5 ninth on Thursday a "tough lesson." His 9-iron approach had found the right trap and there was a small branch with a leaf attached behind the ball.
"In the process of addressing my golf ball, I grazed the top of the leaf, and I'm deemed to have touched a loose impediment in a hazard, which is a two-shot penalty," McDowell said. "Despite the fact that nothing has moved, the lie hasn't improved, I just didn't give the branch enough respect.
“I've never seen that scenario before."
As he stepped into the bunker, McDowell remembers his caddy saying, "You know you can't touch that branch, right?" But the 2010 U.S. Open champ thought he was talking about actually removing the branch.
"The second that I grazed it, we both knew perhaps we might be in trouble," McDowell said.
He blasted out to 14 feet on the far fringe, then holed the putt for what turned out to be a bogey. All in all, though, McDowell was pleased with his performance that saw him hit 12 of 14 fairways, 12 greens and use just 24 putts. He also holed a 9-iron from 155 yards at the eighth hole for eagle.
"I played lovely today," McDowell said. “I gave myself a ton of chances, drove the ball well. I had a new Cleveland driver in the bag this week which I hit really well. I gave myself a load of chances. It was a strong finish, very happy, and I'd have taken 4 under par today."