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Thursday, 16 June 2011
Graeme McDowell  (Getty Images)
Graeme McDowell (Getty Images)

Defending champion Graeme McDowell got his US Open Championship campaign off to an impressive start at Congressional Country Club.

American Ryan Palmer led the way in this year’s second Major Championship at three under through 11, but Northern Irishman McDowell hit back from a bogey five on the 402 yard first with birdies at the second and the long sixth to turn in a one under 35.

The Ryder Cup hero was disappointed to go long into sand at the tenth, but his recovery hit the flagstick and a par three kept him in a tie for fourth spot.

And six consecutive pars on the back nine kept him in a share of fourth, with only 12 players under par during the early stages.

Luke Donald saw his brilliant start turn sour - after setting off with birdies at two of the most feared holes England's World Number One had no fewer than four bogeys in five holes, followed by a double bogey six to turn in a four over par 39.

Sweden’s Johan Edfors, who came through a play-off at Walton Heath in Surrey two weeks ago, and American Jeff Overton were sharing second on two under.

Donald was playing with Lee Westwood and Martin Kaymer, the pair ranked two and three in the world, and they did not sparkle either, covering the back nine in one over 36s.

Lucky that heavy rain eased off just as they went to the start of their rounds, Donald hit a superb four iron to four feet on the dangerous short tenth over water.

He then made a 14 footer at the 494 yard uphill par four to be out on his own in front at two under.

But he pulled irons left on the 13th and 14th before running up a third bogey on the long 16th when he went from the right rough to the left rough and then over the green and down a steep slope.

Rated the best bunker player in the sport he could not get up and down from sand at the 17th and on the 523 yard par four last - the second longest par four in US Open history - he was in trouble off the tee again, then struck a 96 yard pitch way too hard into a back bunker.

He had a plugged lie and a difficult stance to make matters worse and although he did wonderfully well to get it to seven feet he missed the putt.

Westwood had failed to get up and down from sand on the 11th, made an 18 footer at the 16th, but tripped up at the 18th when he drove right into the trees and bogeyed.

Former US PGA Championship winners Padraig Harrington and Y E Yang were amongst those level with McDowell.

Donald raised his spirits with a 20 foot birdie putt on the first and he remained three over with six to play.

Westwood birdied the short second from 18 feet, but at the next he was bunkered by the green and after hitting the hole from there he missed the five-footer coming back and returned to one over.

Kaymer, meanwhile, three-putted the first and with another bogey at the third went to three over.

That was six off the pace as 34 year old Palmer, who missed the cut in his two previous appearance, birdied the first, eighth and tenth.

Westwood joined Donald and Kaymer on three over when he hit his second into the lake on the long sixth and bogeyed,

Palmer was joined by Korean Yang when he birdied the second, sixth and seventh and Harrington and McDowell were still going well at one under.

Shane Lowry, winner of the 2009 Irish Open as an amateur, bogeyed the 17th, but chased a seven iron from the rough to six feet for an unlikely closing birdie and creditable one over 72 on his debut.
"
It was a nice way to finish - that hole will probably play closer to five this week," he said after a round of three birdies and four bogeys.

"I went out with the mindset of not making doubles," he added.

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