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'Three more rounds like that, who knows?': Graeme McDowell delighted to hit the ground running at the US Open

 

Beach boy: Graeme McDowell plays a shot from the 14th tee during the first round of the 2019 US Open at Pebble Beach
Beach boy: Graeme McDowell plays a shot from the 14th tee during the first round of the 2019 US Open at Pebble Beach
Putting out: Graeme McDowell on 11

By Brian Keogh

Graeme McDowell allowed himself a celebratory fist-pump when he rolled in a 15-footer for a gutsy par save at his final hole and opened with a 69 to move into contention at Pebble Beach.

The Portrush man missed just two fairways in a US Open masterclass, and when he did make mistakes he made up for them with great putting and chipping to end his day just four shots behind overnight leader Justin Rose by outscoring Dustin Johnson by two shots and Phil Mickelson by three.

"My aim was just to focus hard on the golf course, and playing with Dustin and Phil, it was easy to get caught up in what they were doing," McDowell said.

"Dustin plays a different game so I had to focus on dissecting this golf course the way I can do it, and I felt like I did a really good job today. I hit a lot of fairways and hit to the right side of the pin a lot.

"I played fairly mistake-free golf until the last and then managed to clean that up as well. Playing with Phil trying to win the US Open and you see his intensity level, you realise you are not the only guy getting nervous and under pressure.

"Thankfully, I wasn't coming here to sight-see, I was coming here to compete and I am really happy with my general execution today and the way I struck the ball. Three more rounds like that, who knows?"

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Graeme McDowell

But as McDowell (39) rolled back the years to his 2010 win, it was a disappointing roller-coaster ride for Shane Lowry, who hit just nine greens in a four-over 75.

McDowell followed 12 straight pars with birdies at the fourth and sixth before saving par from 15 feet at the ninth to leave himself right in the hunt for his second Major.

But Lowry mixed two birdies with two bogeys and two costly double-bogeys for a 75 that leaves him with a lot of work to do to make the weekend cut.

It was a tough pill to swallow for the affable Offaly man, who had an eight-footer for a birdie at the first but missed it on the high side.

Had that gone in, it might have been a different story for the World No.32. But he struggled at the par-four second, tangling with the deep rough surrounding a fairway bunker, and had to hole a 12-footer for his bogey five.

He bounced back with a three at the short par-four fourth but drove into trouble right at the par-five sixth, running a double-bogey seven after sending his third into deep rough right of the green.

Even when he recovered again with a two at the 108-yard seventh, rolling in a 12-footer, he ran up another double-bogey at the ninth when he pulled his 206-yard approach into deep rough and moved his third just 20ft.

Another shot went at the 11th, where he carved his tee-shot into the rough on the right and then came up short in a bunker with his second.

To his credit, he steadied the ship when coming home, finishing with seven pars in a row. But he has work to do.

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