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Slugger G-Mac shows trues grit in title defence

Nobody has to take punches on Tour but if a professional golfer could ever be termed as having a granite chin, then it's Graeme McDowell.

The Portrush scrapper shrugged off two potential knockout blows on his way to a one-under par 70 in yesterday's opening round of the Open de France in Paris, showing why he's a must for Paul McGinley's European Ryder Cup team at Gleneagles in September.

There were several stunning rounds at Le France National, not least the superb seven under 64 which propelled American Kevin Stadler into the lead.

A player's true colours are often seen in adversity and that certainly was the case at the 13th and 14th as defending champion McDowell twice sank huge putts for bogey when doubles had been on the cards.

G-Mac landed himself in trouble off the tee at the treacherous 427-yards 13th.

The pressure on the Ulsterman to crank up his Ryder Cup challenge showed as he pounded that tee box in frustration with his club and then took on the risky approach to a green fronted by water.

Ironically, his lie wasn't forbidding enough to force the lay-up.

"Instead, I'd one of those teasers," sighed McDowell, adding: "I was surprised when it didn't make it across the hazard."

After his penalty drop, McDowell hit his fourth shot more than 20-feet past the hole. Faced with a desperately difficult downhill, double-breaker, the cold-eyed finisher sent it into the cup. This remarkable bogey was followed by another at the 605-yard 14th. After clobbering a small boy on the head with his blocked tee shot, McDowell failed to clear the long grass with his second.

"Thankfully, the boy was okay," McDowell said. "My head was spinning pretty good when I was standing over the 15-footer coming back for bogey.

"I somehow managed to summon up the focus to knock that one in and pull myself together."

Ulster duo Gareth Maybin and Michael Hoey are two over, while Dubliner Padraig Harrington is three over.

Meanwhile, Ulsterman Darren Clarke was just outside the top-100 on one-over after his 71 at the Greenbrier Classic in West Virginia. Jonas Blixt leads on six under.

Stephanie Meadow failed to produce the same fireworks she manufactured at the US Open in the opening round of the ISPS Handa European Masters.

The 22-year-old from Jordanstown made a stunning professional debut by finishing third at the US Open but in only her second tournament, the Royal Portush golfer opened with a one over par round.

That score leaves her tied 40th in the Buckinghamshire event, six shots off the lead.

Belfast Telegraph

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