sport news Graeme McDowell boosted by mind games at the Italian Open

When Ryder Cup skipper Thomas Bjorn named Graeme McDowell as one of his assistant captains 10 days ago, it seemed an awfully premature appointment for a Northern Irishman who began the season with high hopes of making the team.

But maybe the Dane was indulging in some clever mind games. As McDowell said at the time: ‘I’m looking forward to a summer of golf where hopefully the thought of France in September is now not going to weigh on my shoulders. This might free me up a bit.’

There was certainly evidence of that over the first two rounds of the Italian Open as the 38-year-old posted a second successive 66 to be one off the lead held at halfway by another former US Open champion and Ryder Cup hero who has fallen on hard times — German Martin Kaymer, who shot a wonderful 63.

Graeme McDowell posted a second successive 66 to be one off the lead held at halfway

Graeme McDowell posted a second successive 66 to be one off the lead held at halfway

With 2016 Masters champion Danny Willett playing another bogey-free round — the first time in 83 events stretching back to 2014 he has played 36 holes without a blemish — this was a day when three major winners breathed life into their stuttering careers.

It will certainly be interesting to see if they can keep it going. With regard to G-Mac, what a bonus it would be if he could do an Ian Poulter and get back to his best, for he

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