Graeme McDowell was given a “bad timing” on Friday at the Saudi International, in part because of doing an on-course interview. Under new European Tour rules, if he gets another one over the final two rounds, he will be assessed a one-stroke penalty.
McDowell enters the weekend two shots off the lead. He carded a 2-under 68 in the second round and is at 8 under par, in solo third place.
The former U.S. Open champion, who was grouped with Phil Mickelson and Rafa Cabrera Bello over the first two rounds, did an on-course interview with Sky Sports’ Tim Barter while on the fourth hole – his 13th of the day.
McDowell, who estimated he was 50 yards behind his playing competitors while doing the walk-and-talk, was first to play his approach shot.
“I had 215 yards into the wind,” he told reporters on site. “It was a difficult shot.”
According to the European Tour, McDowell had 50 seconds to play the shot, but took 84. Because the group had previously been put on the clock for being out of position, McDowell was given his first bad time of the tournament.
European Tour rules allow a player to use one “time out” during a round in order to provide for more time to execute a shot. McDowell said doing so didn’t initially cross his mind.
“It’s just the last thing I think of out there,” he said. “I called a time out after I hit the shot, but the referee was not really willing to give me any kind of room for error at all. Then that kind of upset my rhythm for a couple holes.”
McDowell said that he is in favor of the tour’s stricter policy regarding slow play and that he also supports on-course interviews. But he doesn’t want one to negatively affect the other.
“Tim is great at his job and I don’t want a situation where guys won’t give him an interview,” McDowell said. “But I called him over and said, ‘You might want to have a word with them,’ because if I’m going to do that for you, which I want to because we are in the entertainment business and I think it’s a good thing for views to get an insight into what is happening out on the course, only for the referee to give me a bad time, then everyone is going to say no.”
McDowell went on to par the fourth hole and recorded one birdie and four pars of his final five holes.