Irish Open Day One – Relaxed McDowell starts well at Portstewart

Jon Rahm

GRAEME McDowell admits he has let his frustrations get the better of him this season but a return to familiar surroundings paid off at Portstewart yesterday.
A five-under par 67 left the Portrush native trailing round one leaders, American Daniel Im and Frenchman Benjamin Hebert by three shots at the DDF Irish Open hosted by the Rory Foundation.
“It’s been frustrating for all the right reasons because I’ve been playing well,” said Graeme.
“I’ve been walking away on Sunday nights not feeling like I got enough out of the week but that’s a better frustration than when you just know you’re not playing well.
“The game’s not been far away, and you know, perhaps it’s a week like this week that can give me that little bit of spark and that little bit of inspiration to really kick on for the summer.

“I’m really pleased with that start, and I’m looking forward to getting back it tomorrow.”

Starting at the 10th, Graeme reached three under quickly with birdies at the 13th, 14th and 16th but dropped shots at the 17th and 18th saw him turn in one under 35.
“It would have been easy to get frustrated at that point but I hit a beautiful shot into the second and made a couple of nice putts on that nine and turned a mediocre day into a decent day,” he added.
“I was happy with the way I rolled it on the greens generally and I hit a lot of quality shots.”
The 2010 US Open champion played some fine golf on his back nine, collecting four birdies at the second, fourth, sixth and eighth, to end the day in a share of ninth.
Irish duo, Shane Lowry and Padraig Harrington are a shot further back after a day of low scoring on the North Coast.
“I definitely feel like it’s the least I deserved out there. I felt like I played great,” said Shane.
“I’m pretty happy with that. Four under in the first round is pretty good. I’m not going to complain.”
Harrington described his round as, ‘a nice, decent score’.
“I played average, had a few chances and if things had gone my way, I certainly could have made it a few more under par but I think four-under is an ok reflection of the day.
“The likelihood is you’ve got to be focusing on 20-under par or more this week, so I need some better scores later on in the week.
“If we get some wind, that will obviously defend the course but at the moment, with beautiful conditions, these guys are good, they are going to shoot low scores.”
A pair of 64’s for Im and Hebert established the course record at Portstewart and gave the unlikely duo – with a combined world ranking of 796 – a one-shot lead over Jon Rahm, Oliver Fisher and Matthew Southgate.

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