Published Friday, 13 June 2014
Graeme McDowell in action during the first round on Thursday. (© Getty)
McDowell's early 68 looked set to give him a share of the clubhouse lead at the US Open on Thursday alongside Americans Kevin Na and Fran Quinn and Zimbabwe's Brendon de Jonge.
He fired an eagle, one birdie and one bogey to shoot his opening 68.
McDowell admitted the early starters had enjoyed the luck of the draw and benefitted from tournament officials deciding to water the course after the expected rain failed to materialise.
"I spent the last few days just preparing myself mentally for the challenge, knowing that this golf course wasn't going to give much and it was only going to take," said McDowell, who holed from 10 feet for eagle on the fifth after a superb three-wood approach from 248 yards.
"I really felt like I got my head in the right place the last few days."
He said on Thursday: "It wasn't my best ball-striking display this morning, but you don't have to strike it amazing around here, you just have to position the ball correctly at all times, and with a tiny bit more moisture this morning we got lucky.
"In practice yesterday the golf course seemed to be very firm, kind of a weekend set up. I guess the USGA were really relying on some rain last night, which didn't come."
And, after watching the 2010 champion plot his way around the course, playing partner Rory McIlroy backed his fellow Northern Irishman to challenge for a second major title.
"G-Mac didn't start the best but made that eagle on the fifth," said McIlroy, who returned a 71.
"He gets the most out of it and misses it in the right places, has a really good short game, holes big momentum putts to keep his run going.
""This is his ideal sort of tournament, grinding it out, and the winning score not being too much under par. He knows how to do that well."
Meanwhile, it wasn't as positive for the third NI golfer in the tournament. Darren Clarke, from Dungannon, carded a round of five over par 75.
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