McDowell hits the front in Saudi Arabia as Perez falls away

By Joe Wright 1 February 2020 1
McDowell hits the front in Saudi Arabia as Perez falls away

Graeme McDowell will take a one-shot lead into the final round of the Saudi International after carding a four-under 66 on Saturday.

Four birdies on the back nine saw the Northern Irishman, who was warned about slow play on Friday, claim the lead on 12 under after he went out in 35.

Victor Dubuisson, his 2014 Ryder Cup playing partner, is a stroke behind after signing for a joint-lowest round of 65 on moving day, with Gavin Green third on nine under after consecutive bogeys at the 14th and 15th meant he had to settle for a level-par 70.

Overnight leader Victor Perez fell away after two double bogeys effectively bookended a round of 73 that leaves him five off the pace.

Defending champion Dustin Johnson opened with four birdies in a row, only to give up three strokes on the back nine, although the American closed out with a birdie to finish level with Perez and Renato Paratore.

McDowell had luck on his side when a heavy-handed putt bounced in off the flag pole on the 12th, but the 2010 U.S. Open champion largely demonstrated plenty of poise to cope with the blustery conditions, not least with a stunning approach shot that set up a birdie on the tricky par-five 18th.

Thomas Detry and Brooks Koepka – both at seven under alongside Phil Mickelson – and Ian Poulter matched Dubuisson's 65, while Scotland's Grant Forrest made a second consecutive 66 .

There was less to celebrate for Julien Guerrier, who followed Friday's 65 with a nightmare 79 that included a quadruple bogey on the 13th.

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Joe Wright