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US Open: Graeme McDowell considers future as struggles continue

By Steve Simpson

Graeme McDowell has admitted wrestling with thoughts of premature retirement as he prepares for the second round of the US Open at Chambers Bay.

The 35-year-old Ulsterman - who triumphed in the US Open at Pebble Beach five years ago - struggled to a four over par 74 in yesterday's opening round.

A double bogey at the 10th was particularly damaging to G-Mac's ambitions.

McDowell revealed he has considered his golfing future amid wavering form - no top-25 finishes in his last dozen events - and greater family commitments.

"I haven't enjoyed the season, not scoring well, losing a little of confidence and belief, thinking am I done, finished, washed up? Should I think about getting a new job?" said McDowell, who has fallen to 44th in the world rankings.

"It's hard. But I feel like I'm learning a lot from it," the Portrush native explained.

"Something I've done well in my career to this point is reacting well to the tough years and coming out the other side better and stronger and smarter.

"That's what I'm kind of in right now, I'm in that learning curve and looking forward to being back on the leaderboard very soon."

Defending champion Martin Kaymer had some bright spots early on, but the German dropped a couple of shots down the stretch en route to an opening round two over 72.

Kaymer is back after rolling to an eight-shot victory at Pinehurst last year for his second career major title to go along with a 2010 PGA Championship win.

Starting his round on the back nine, Kaymer opened with a par and then tripped to a bogey at 11.

At the drivable par four 12th, Kaymer rolled his ball to within eight feet of the hole with his tee shot and he knocked that in for eagle, pushing him to minus one.

That sub-par score did not last long, however, as Kaymer gave both of those shots back with a double bogey on 13.

Another birdie from about eight feet at the par three 15th got one of those shots back and Kaymer was back to even par.

Kaymer made the turn with seven straight pars from 16 before back-to-back bogeys at five and six left him at two over.

The 30-year-old closed his round with a trio of pars for his 72.

Back-to-back 65s in the first two rounds last year saw Kaymer crush the competition in North Carolina as he finished at nine under 271.

Four birdies in his last five holes saw Sweden's Henrik Stenson join Dustin Johnson in a share of the clubhouse lead.

The former Race to Dubai champion has finished inside the top 21 in eight of the last nine majors.

And a 20 foot birdie on the 18th boosted his chances as a five under par 65 left him tied with US Ryder Cup star Johnson.

The pair were two ahead of Americans Matt Kuchar and Patrick Reed, with Italy's Francesco Molinari part of the group on two under following a 68.

Ryder Cup hero Sergio Garcia is still in the mix following a level par 70.

Garcia said: "It could have been a bit better but these greens are as bad as they look on television."

Fifteen-year-old amateur Cole Hammer was emotional at the start of his first round in the big time, but there was little in the way of comfort out on the course, the youngster struggling to a seven over par 77.

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