McDowell grinds out solid start to title defence after his early hiccup

Bunker. Bunkum. Bogey at the first. Not exactly how Graeme McDowell had dreamed he would start the defence of his US Open title. Stomach churning. First-tee nerves perhaps. But it was just a blip. Birdie at the second. Nerves settled. No need for a tummy tablet.

No such luck for the announcer on the first tee. He sounded like he was sneezing trying to pronounce "Oosthuizen". Louis was one of McDowell's playing partners. It is almost a year since Oosthuizen (bless you) won the Open but still people can't spit his name out correctly. It's really not that difficult. It's "Oozzyhoozyhyphen". Or something. Oosthuizen's nickname is Shrek on account of his sticky-out teeth. "I don't mind it. It's easier to say Shrek than Oosthuizen," he said laughing after a first round two-under-par 69. "I don't think people are ever going to get my surname right."

Sandwiched between these two major champions was 2010 US amateur champion Peter Uilhein (an am sandwich, if you like). He is the son of Wally, chief executive of golf equipment company Titleist. So it's fair to assume that Junior probably didn't have to look too far to find a decent set of clubs. He got the loudest cheer of the day holing out from the fairway for an eagle at the fifth. A one-over 72 was a fine effort.

McDowell soon found his groove and didn't miss another fairway on the so-called easier front nine here. He has struggled in recent months posting scores of 79, 80 and 81. But his championship-winning rhythm returned at the toughest test of the year. His lay-up to the par-five ninth rolled up and kissed Oosthuizen's ball. Snookered. "Never ever seen that before," McDowell said. The Northern Irishman had to move his ball one club's length away. He set up a 13-foot birdie chance but his putt slid by the hole. He gritted his teeth in anguish. US Open set-ups don't offer up many opportunities to beat par. Time to hang on to his one-under score on the beast of a back nine that kicks off with a 218-yard par three over water and into the wind.

The 10th tee sits in front of the ridiculously huge but splendid Spanish style clubhouse with its red-tiled roof and white-washed walls. The lawn is the place to be to watch the world's finest come through. As the players check their yardage books and try to convince their brains that the water isn't there, the VIPs and beautiful people sipped cocktails and looked on from their picnic tables. The unmistakable aroma of the members' barbecue and the stench of stogies wafted across on the breeze.

McDowell's tee shot fired straight at the flag. Unfortunately it just kept going and got closer to the enormous Stars and Stripes flag at the back of the green. Bunker: plugged lie. Groans from the lawn. McDowell was now faced with a sand shot downhill to the hole with the water waiting beyond the flag. Terrifying. No sweat for McDowell. He attacked his ball from a steep angle with his wedge and battered it out on a cushion of sand. He almost holed it. Genius. Tap in par. And relax.

Eight more pars followed as McDowell ground out a one-under 70. Just the start he was looking for after that shaky opening hole. "The 10th is the only slightly unfair hole out here," McDowell said. "I had to sizzle a five-iron. A four-iron would have been too much. They've taken this course to the edge to dry it out. They're doing a good job."

McDowell said he was eager to get going to put the past year behind him. He set himself a goal to be patient. Mission accomplished. "I felt like I have spent the last three months talking about Pebble Beach and 2010. I've done all the talking. Ready to move on. Kept it in play well off the tee. Very happy."

Suggested Topics
Alexis Sanchez has completed a £35m move to Arsenal, the club have confirmed
sportGunners complete £35m signing of Barcelona forward
Poor teachers should be fearful of not getting pay rises or losing their job if they fail to perform, Steve Fairclough, headteacher of Abbotsholme School, suggested
voicesChris Sloggett explains why it has become an impossible career path
world cup 2014
Popes current and former won't be watching the football together
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Arts and Entertainment
Celebrated children’s author Allan Ahlberg, best known for Each Peach Pear Plum
Wayne’s estate faces a claim for alleged copyright breaches
newsJohn Wayne's heirs duke it out with university over use of the late film star's nickname
Life and Style
It beggars belief: the homeless and hungry are weary, tortured, ghosts of people – with bodies contorted by imperceptible pain
lifeRough sleepers exist in every city. Hear the stories of those whose luck has run out
peopleIndian actress known as the 'Grand Old Lady of Bollywood' was 102
Arts and Entertainment
Currently there is nothing to prevent all-male or all-female couples from competing against mixed sex partners at any of the country’s ballroom dancing events
Potential ban on same-sex partners in ballroom dancing competitions amounts to 'illegal discrimination'
Mick Jagger performing at Glastonbury
Germany's Andre Greipel crosses the finish line to win the sixth stage of the Tour de France cycling race over 194 kilometers (120.5 miles) with start in Arras and finish in Reims, France
tour de franceGerman champion achieves sixth Tour stage win in Reims
Life and Style
beautyBelgian fan lands L'Oreal campaign after being spotted at World Cup
Caption competition
Caption competition
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Daily World Cup Quiz
Independent Dating

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

Career Services

Day In a Page

A History of the First World War in 100 Moments: Peace without magnanimity - the summit in a railway siding that ended the fighting

A History of the First World War in 100 Moments

Peace without magnanimity - the summit in a railway siding that ended the fighting
Scottish independence: How the Commonwealth Games could swing the vote

Scottish independence: How the Commonwealth Games could swing the vote

In the final part of our series, Chris Green arrives in Glasgow - a host city struggling to keep the politics out of its celebration of sport
Out in the cold: A writer spends a night on the streets and hears the stories of the homeless

A writer spends a night on the streets

Rough sleepers - the homeless, the destitute and the drunk - exist in every city. Will Nicoll meets those whose luck has run out
Striking new stations, high-speed links and (whisper it) better services - the UK's railways are entering a new golden age

UK's railways are entering a new golden age

New stations are opening across the country and our railways appear to be entering an era not seen in Britain since the early 1950s
Conchita Wurst becomes a 'bride' on the Paris catwalk - and proves there is life after Eurovision

Conchita becomes a 'bride' on Paris catwalk

Alexander Fury salutes the Eurovision Song Contest winner's latest triumph
Pétanque World Championship in Marseilles hit by

Pétanque 'world cup' hit by death threats

This year's most acrimonious sporting event took place in France, not Brazil. How did pétanque get so passionate?
10 best women's sunglasses

In the shade: 10 best women's sunglasses

From luxury bespoke eyewear to fun festival sunnies, we round up the shades to be seen in this summer
Germany vs Argentina World Cup 2014: Lionel Messi? Javier Mascherano is key for Argentina...

World Cup final: Messi? Mascherano is key for Argentina...

No 10 is always centre of attention but Barça team-mate is just as crucial to finalists’ hopes
Siobhan-Marie O’Connor: Swimmer knows she needs Glasgow joy on road to Rio

Siobhan-Marie O’Connor: Swimmer needs Glasgow joy on road to Rio

18-year-old says this month’s Commonwealth Games are a key staging post in her career before time slips away
The true Gaza back-story that the Israelis aren’t telling this week

The true Gaza back-story that the Israelis aren’t telling this week

A future Palestine state will have no borders and be an enclave within Israel, surrounded on all sides by Israeli-held territory, says Robert Fisk
A History of the First World War in 100 Moments: The German people demand an end to the fighting

A History of the First World War in 100 Moments

The German people demand an end to the fighting
New play by Oscar Wilde's grandson reveals what the Irish wit said at his trials

New play reveals what Oscar Wilde said at trials

For a century, what Wilde actually said at his trials was a mystery. But the recent discovery of shorthand notes changed that. Now his grandson Merlin Holland has turned them into a play
Can scientists save the world's sea life from

Can scientists save our sea life?

By the end of the century, the only living things left in our oceans could be plankton and jellyfish. Alex Renton meets the scientists who are trying to turn the tide
Richard III, Trafalgar Studios, review: Martin Freeman gives highly intelligent performance

Richard III review

Martin Freeman’s psychotic monarch is big on mockery but wanting in malice
Hollywood targets Asian audiences as US films enjoy record-breaking run at Chinese box office

Hollywood targets Asian audiences

The world's second biggest movie market is fast becoming the Hollywood studios' most crucial