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'The ship feels like it's sinking:' Graeme McDowell reacts after ball lost by 12 seconds in heart-breaking end to the first round at The Open

Graeme McDowell suffered one of the most heart-wrenching endings to a round of golf.
Graeme McDowell suffered one of the most heart-wrenching endings to a round of golf.
Gareth Hanna

By Gareth Hanna

Calmness personified, on the outside at least.

Despite enduring what must have been one of the most frustrating endings to a round of golf in the history of the game, Graeme McDowell spoke with intelligence and patience.

After he hit a ball right, but not too far right, off the 18th tee, it somehow got lost in the Portrush rough.

Well, lost for three minutes and 12 seconds. Last year, that would have been no problem. With the new rules of golf, it's 12 seconds too long.

It led to a triple bogey seven and, somehow, a round of two over par despite such an impressive performance.

"I've got to not let this spoil my week, because it could easily spoil my week," he said to a press room sharing his pain. "I feel like all the air has been let out of the sails plus some. The ship feels like it's sinking. It's not air out of the sails, it's everything.

"It was an innocuous tee shot. I wasn't expecting to lose the ball, put it that way. I'm walking down there expecting half a lie, maybe get up short of the green or back into play and try to make four, and can't find it. It's disappointing.

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"It's amazing, five minutes feels like a long time when you're looking for a ball and three minutes feels like no time at all. We had 30 people over there looking for that thing.

"12 seconds after the three minutes was up we found it. We found my ball. It was a lie where I could have gotten it in the fairway. It wasn't a great lie. Unfortunately it was 10 yards right of where I thought it was. For some reason, no one saw it and the marshals didn't get an eye on it."

It was the exact opposite of what McDowell had deserved.

He hit 14 greens, 17 and 18 two of those that he missed.

He struck the ball sweetly, and with apparent ease, for 95% of the day, probably more; a display that deserved to be alongside Shane Lowry at the top of the leaderboard on four under par. At least.

But the flatstick was 'cold' as putt after putt evaded the cup.

The putter must nearly have frozen on 15 when the first three-roll of the day arrived, to be followed by two more, albeit from off the green, on 17 and 18.

"I played beautiful," he said - quite right too. "I really gave myself so many looks today.

"I felt reasonably comfortable off the tee. I guess my memory of the greens isn't really as good as it used to be. But like I say, outside of the Irish Open, I haven't been here in 20 years.

"How much local knowledge is there? I don't know.

"I felt like I played the top part of the course really well. Set myself up with a good chance coming down the stretch. That heavy shower came through, it definitely took a little bit of sting out of the greens. I three-putt 15, I three-putt 17, which is hugely disappointing. And definitely kind of hurt a little bit.

"But that finish is going to take a little bit of getting over for half an hour."

Despite such a heartbreaking end, the 42-year-old was able to speak with glowing praise about the occasion.

"It was emotional," he admitted. "I did have a tear in the eye, and kind of embarrassed to say it. But I didn't know why I had one. I guess I do know why I had one, but at the same time I'm trying to go out there and play golf. Iit's just been a great journey. It's been an amazing journey to get here.

"People have been amazing. And the receptions out there were really a lot of fun. And to be honest, as soon as I got off the first, I felt very relaxed. But the first tee was definitely a little emotional and a little intimidating. I was happy to get that away."

Now it's a matter of preparing for tomorrow.

And surely this time, more of the same will earn a more favourable result.

"There's nothing to say," he admitted with a wry smile. "I played lovely. And I've got to go play good again tomorrow. It's as simple as that."

Grounded. Patient. Shafted by lady luck.

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