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Solid start for McDowell as he proves Bethpage isn't just for the big hitters

Graeme McDowell plays a shot from the second tee (Photo by Mike Ehrmann/Getty Images)
Graeme McDowell plays a shot from the second tee (Photo by Mike Ehrmann/Getty Images)
Adam McKendry

By Adam McKendry

Graeme McDowell proved you don't need extreme length off the tee to compete at Bethpage Black as he started his US PGA Championship tilt with a level par 70 in Farmingdale, NY.

The Rathmore man was solid the whole way round, mixing three birdies with as many bogeys around the insanely difficult Black Course to sit just outside the top-10 at the halfway stage of the first round.

All week long the opinion has been that only long hitters can compete around Bethpage, but McDowell has proven that might not be the case by staying level while averaging just 259.1 yards off the tee.

Instead, his accuracy with both his driver and his irons, combined with a hot streak on the greens, saw him finish where he started for a confidence building first round.

Sitting 120th in the world rankings, a good finish this week would provide McDowell with a huge step towards competing in The Open Championship at Royal Portrush in July.

After four straight pars to start, G-Mac got under par for the first time when he rolled in a nice 18-foot putt for birdie on the par-four, before parring his way to the turn.

He gave that shot back on the 11th after finding the rough off the tee, but got it back on the par-five 13th with a fantastic approach to five feet with his third.

The tricky uphill par-four 15th tripped him up, McDowell rescuing a bogey by draining a testing eight-footer, but he gained it back by rolling in a 12-footer for birdie at the 17th.

However, after ripping a drive down the middle on the last, his approach found the rough around the green and he failed to make up-and-down, closing with a bogey to drop back to even.

Despite a solid first round, McDowell is still an incredible six shots off leader and defending champion Brooks Koepka, who was six-under par through 16 holes of his first round.

The World No.3 was flawless, carding six birdies and dropping no shots on his way to the score, which sees him two shots clear of American Luke List.

Englishman Tommy Fleetwood is three-under, World No.2 Justin Rose and Rickie Fowler are at one-under, while Tiger Woods was alongside G-Mac at level par.

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