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US Open: McDowell delighted with positive start

By Peter Bills

nother day, another major and Graeme McDowell sits near the top of the first round leader board. Deja vu? Maybe. But pretty nice, all the same.

At Congressional Country Club last night, McDowell was again enjoying the exclusive view from near the top of the field.

His first round round one-under par 70 was a quietly satisfying start to his title defence.

Or maybe, it was a bit more.

“It was a dream start for me, I am pretty happy with that” he said. “To hit nine pars on the back nine (a run of 12 pars in all after his birdie four on the sixth hole)....well, you would take that. Absolutely.

“This was the best I have struck it since the first few rounds at TPC this year.”

McDowell knew that steady, consistent scoring was the likely key to this week’s Open.

The only certainty on a first day of wildly fluctuating fortunes was that no-one would feel safe and secure around this notoriously tough acreage.

McDowell started badly, bogeying the first hole when his ball plugged in the front bunker and he made 5, before getting the stroke back at the second with a birdie two.

From there on, he was a model of consistency, negotiating some tricky positions but demonstrating a composure which would serve him well here this week.

“I drove the ball beautifully which is key on this golf course. You have got to play it from the fairway to have a chance and I positioned the ball really well. I had some chances and hung in there. I scrambled pretty well,” he said.

“I had a few chances I couldn’t quite convert and one or two of those would have been nice, like on 17 and 18. But I am really happy with the way I controlled the ball. I will need to continue to do that this week to have a chance.”

His 70 left him two shots behind early leader Y.E. Yang of South Korea who came home with a 68. That 70 was put into stark focus by the travails of the English duo, Luke Donald and Lee Westwood.

Donald struggled home three over par, and Westwood, who visited all kinds of awful places such as lakes, bunkers and rough, finished one shot worse off, with a 75.

McDowell just got home before the wind really began to pick up in the early afternoon. But against that, the early starters had had to content with a morning shower.

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