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The Open 2015: Graeme McDowell and Darren Clarke are left feeling frustrated

By Liam Kelly

Graeme McDowell had an aching sense of regret about letting birdie chances slip away in the first round of the Open at St Andrews.

The Portrush native had to be content with a level par 72 despite creating opportunities to put together a much better score.

"I hit the ball lovely today, especially the first 12 or 13 holes. I felt like I hit good putts and made nothing," he said.

Fellow Northern Irishman Darren Clarke had a first round 73. He was not impressed.

"I got nothing. I hit it just in the bunker on the fifth, off the tee, and I had to come out sideways; and I hit it in the bunker on 11, and I had to come backwards and sideways," said Europe's Ryder Cup captain.

"I hit it in the bunker on 14 up at the green, and I had to go completely backwards. If you hit it in the bunker, that's fair enough, but when they just go in and you have got to come out backwards, that is one of the nuances of the Old Course and I had to pay the penalty." In the enforced absence of the injured Rory McIlroy, it is possible that that Northern Ireland won't have a player at St Andrews over the weekend. Padraig Harrington had the least favourable conditions with his afternoon start and was another on level-par 72, hitting three birdies and three bogeys.

"It was tough out there in the afternoon, especially if you get the first couple of holes downwind and you don't take your chances. I was happy to play the last seven holes in level-par," he said.

Shane Lowry was considered by many to be a decent outside bet for the Claret Jug but has much work to do after a one-over-par 73 start.

The best of the Irish performers on day one was amateur Paul Dunne, who shot an impressive three under par 69 after teeing off at 6.43am.

By 7.15am, the 22-year-old graduate of the University of Alabama ould see his name on top of the leaderboard at two-under par following birdies on his first two holes.

It did not last long but it was a moment to treasure.

"Yeah it was cool to see it on the screen. It's kind of a novelty thing for when I'm 70 years old, sitting in a bar, having a pint, maybe telling someone that I led The Open," he said.

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