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Graeme MacDowell battling to keep up chase for hat-trick of wins


By Phil Casey

Published 03/07/2015

High hopes: Graeme McDowell plays his second shot on the first fairway yesterday
High hopes: Graeme McDowell plays his second shot on the first fairway yesterday

Austria's Bernd Wiesberger, home favourite Victor Dubuisson and South African Jaco Van Zyl shared the clubhouse lead after a weather-disrupted opening day of the Alstom Open de France at Le Golf National.

Play was suspended just moments before it was due to get under way at 0730 local time at the 2018 Ryder Cup venue, although the initial delay lasted just 30 minutes.

However, only 42 minutes of play was possible before the threat of lightning again forced players off the course, this time causing a delay of two hours.

That meant 42 of the afternoon starters were unable to complete their rounds before another thunderstorm saw play abandoned for the day, among them defending champion Graeme McDowell, who was one over par with just one hole to play.

McDowell successfully defended a title for the first time in his career 12 months ago and would become the first player since Marcel Dallemagne in 1938 to win the French Open three times in succession with another victory on Sunday.

The former US Open champion would also become just the sixth player to claim a hat-trick of European Tour titles in the same event and battled back from three over par after 10 holes with birdies on the 15th and 17th.

Germany's Max Kieffer held the lead on the course at four under par with four holes to play.

After starting from the 10th, Wiesberger carded four birdies in his first 14 holes before dropping his only shot of the day on the par-three eighth by three-putting from long range.

"I played okay," Wiesberger said after carding an opening three-under-par 68. "I was not driving it great early on and was scrambling round. I had a couple of four or five footers for par but the chances I had I took nicely.

"I had just those two hiccups with the three-putt and not getting up and down from beside the ninth green for birdies but, in general, with the conditions being pretty windy, I was quite happy with that."

Wiesberger lost a play-off for the Irish Open at the end of May and has recorded four other top-10 finishes this season in pursuit of a third European Tour title.

"Except for Wentworth where I played terribly, I like the courses where you are challenged a bit more and are not shooting 15, 16 or 17 under par to win," the 29-year-old added.

Dubuisson had been one over par after five holes, but birdied the 18th after his approach cleared the water in front of the green by just a few feet and also picked up shots on the third, fifth and seventh.

The Ryder Cup star almost found water with his tee shot on the ninth but scrambled a par to the delight of the home crowds.

Meanwhile, Tiger Woods bounced back from his miserable US Open to shoot his lowest score on the PGA Tour this season with a four-under-par 66 on day one of The Greenbrier Classic.

Woods has had a largely dismal 2015 so far, slumping to 220th in the world rankings and recording three scores in the 80s in his last six tournaments.

The former world number one also missed the cut in the US Open at Chambers Bay with his worst ever score in the event (80 in the first round) and highest 36-hole total of his career (156).

However, the 14-time Major winner had a much better day in West Virginia as he broke 70 for only the third time this season and the first time since the Masters in April, where he carded a four-under-par 68 in the third round.

Leona Maguire carded a three-under 69 in the first round of the ISPS HANDA Ladies European Masters at The Buckinghamshire Golf Club.

Playing on a sponsor's invite, the 20-year-old from Cavan, who was three under through the first nine, hit 16 greens in her opening round, carding four birdies and a single bogey that left her in a share of 12th position at the end of day one.

Belfast Telegraph

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