US Open: McDowell knows the score
Graeme McDowell will tonight begin his second round at the 110th US Open happy to have to recalculate his scoring expectations for a challenge much stiffer than most weeks.
The in-form Portrush ace has been used to some very low scoring of late, having won this month's Celtic Manor Wales Open at 15 under par and placed fourth at the Madrid Masters the previous week after finishing on 17 under.
Switching mindsets to the rigours of a US Open set-up at an already difficult course like Pebble Beach this week has taken some doing, McDowell said, and allowed him to be more than happy with his level-par opening round of 71.
“US Opens are always tough days,” said McDowell, just two shots off the overnight lead held by England's Paul Casey, American Shaun Micheel and Brendon De Jonge of Zimbabwe on the California links.
“The first round you always want to get out there and calibrate the system and get your head around level par being a good score.
“When I came off the back of Madrid and Wales being around 30 under par and you come in here and recognise that par is a good score you've got to keep your head on and find the fairways and greens.”
McDowell placed most emphasis on his good putting on Pebble Beach's firm, small greens for keeping him in contention.
“It was all kind of solid, nothing outstanding,” he said. “The putter kept me in there.
“I made five birdies which is a pretty decent return out there.
“I think Pebble is like that. It's set up to give you chances but if you get on the wrong side it beats you up as well. I think it's a really fair test. Good golf gets rewarded and, like I say, five birdies is something to build on.”
Ireland's three-time major winner Padraig Harrington was similarly pleased to have posted a two-over-par 73 for his opening round.
Just three weeks on from undergoing minor knee surgery, the Dubliner had a three-birdie, five-bogey round that saw him rally, with two of those birdies coming over the last four holes.
“Our scores says a lot about the US Open,” Harrington said. “You get good golf courses like this and set up reasonably in a regular event, guys would shoot regular scores. But in this event everybody gets a bit more tense.
“There are plenty of tough holes out there but plenty of reasonable pins.”
Ballyclare golfer Gareth Maybin's debut US Open round was undone by a back-nine hat-trick of bogeys on the way to a 74. Maybin parred his first 12 holes before coming unstuck at the 13th, 14th and 15th but the 30-year-old held his nerve to close out with three more pars.
Compatriot and world number 10 Rory McIlroy is a shot further back at four over, his 75 falling between playing partners Ryo Ishikawa's 70 and Tom Watson's 78, while Irish amateur Kevin Phelan, a 19-year-old student at the University of North Florida, had a difficult US Open baptism as he shot an 83.