Graeme McDowell is not accustomed to coming second in a Ryder Cup showdown here, scene of his winning-point heroics eight months ago. But on his return to the Twenty Ten course he calls "my adopted home" yesterday, the Ulsterman was forced to bow to his Europe team-mate Peter Hanson.
The Swede had to pull out the lowest round of his year to outscore his playing partner. McDowell's 67 was on the impressive side of commendable as he set out in defence of a title which kickstarted his ascent up the world order. Yet Hanson's 65 featured, in McDowell's words, "some beautiful golf".
Eight birdies and two bogeys helped Hanson into contention, one behind the early leader, Keith Horne. There was little talk between the pair of those memories forever cast in the blue and gold, although McDowell did joke that the plaque on the 16th green was difficult to putt over. "It was a tough second shot past that statue of me, too," he said.
Alas, there is no plaque, no statue, but perhaps there should be. Not only will McDowell long be synonymous with this layout, but as the reigning US Open champion he is supplying some much needed stardust. Take away McDowell and Miguel Angel Jimenez is the next best ranked at No 26. There are only two other top 50 players in the field – Anders Hansen and Hanson.
Even with the eventual success that was the 38th Ryder Cup, Sir Terry Matthews might conclude it is not the most rousing return on the £100m-plus he ploughed into developing this resort. How welcome, therefore, is McDowell's name on that leaderboard.
His four-under morning was highlighted by an eagle two on the 15th when he drove the green and holed a 30-footer. It helped make the 31-year-old five shots better off than he was at the same stage in 2010. "I should win by eight then," said McDowell, thinking back to his three-shot win.
He will appreciate that Hanson requires no map to the winner's enclosure. Indeed, McDowell knows the 33-year-old's game as well as any. Last year Hanson bought a house in Lake Nona, Florida, the gated village where McDowell and so many other Euros reside. "My home is on one side of the driving range, Graeme's is on the other," reported Hanson. "We meet with a bucket in our hands quite often."
* Luke Donald birdied four of his last five holes to post a two under 70 at The Memorial in Ohio. He was four behind the clubhouse leaders, Chris Riley and Rory McIlroy.Reuse content