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
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Arts and Entertainment
Books should be for everyone, says Els, 8. Publisher Scholastic now agrees
booksAn eight-year-old saw a pirate book was ‘for boys’ and took on the publishers
Life and Style
Mary Beard received abuse after speaking positively on 'Question Time' about immigrant workers: 'When people say ridiculous, untrue and hurtful things, then I think you should call them out'
tech
Life and Style
Most mail-order brides are thought to come from Thailand, the Philippines and Romania
life
News
i100
Life and Style
tech
Voices
Margaret Thatcher, with her director of publicity Sir Gordon Reece, who helped her and the Tory Party to victory in 1979
voicesThe subject is being celebrated by the V&A museum, triggering some happy memories for former PR man DJ Taylor
Caption competition
Caption competition
  • Get to the point
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Daily Quiz
Independent Dating
and  

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

Career Services

Day In a Page

General Election 2015: Chuka Umunna on the benefits of immigration, humility – and his leader Ed Miliband

Chuka Umunna: A virus of racism runs through Ukip

The shadow business secretary on the benefits of immigration, humility – and his leader Ed Miliband
Yemen crisis: This exotic war will soon become Europe's problem

Yemen's exotic war will soon affect Europe

Terrorism and boatloads of desperate migrants will be the outcome of the Saudi air campaign, says Patrick Cockburn
Marginal Streets project aims to document voters in the run-up to the General Election

Marginal Streets project documents voters

Independent photographers Joseph Fox and Orlando Gili are uploading two portraits of constituents to their website for each day of the campaign
Game of Thrones: Visit the real-life kingdom of Westeros to see where violent history ends and telly tourism begins

The real-life kingdom of Westeros

Is there something a little uncomfortable about Game of Thrones shooting in Northern Ireland?
How to survive a social-media mauling, by the tough women of Twitter

How to survive a Twitter mauling

Mary Beard, Caroline Criado-Perez, Louise Mensch, Bunny La Roche and Courtney Barrasford reveal how to trounce the trolls
Gallipoli centenary: At dawn, the young remember the young who perished in one of the First World War's bloodiest battles

At dawn, the young remember the young

A century ago, soldiers of the Empire – many no more than boys – spilt on to Gallipoli’s beaches. On this 100th Anzac Day, there are personal, poetic tributes to their sacrifice
Dissent is slowly building against the billions spent on presidential campaigns – even among politicians themselves

Follow the money as never before

Dissent is slowly building against the billions spent on presidential campaigns – even among politicians themselves, reports Rupert Cornwell
Samuel West interview: The actor and director on austerity, unionisation, and not mentioning his famous parents

Samuel West interview

The actor and director on austerity, unionisation, and not mentioning his famous parents
General Election 2015: Imagine if the leading political parties were fashion labels

Imagine if the leading political parties were fashion labels

Fashion editor, Alexander Fury, on what the leaders' appearances tell us about them
Phumzile Mlambo-Ngcuka: Home can be the unsafest place for women

Phumzile Mlambo-Ngcuka: Home can be the unsafest place for women

The architect of the HeForShe movement and head of UN Women on the world's failure to combat domestic violence
Public relations as 'art'? Surely not

Confessions of a former PR man

The 'art' of public relations is being celebrated by the V&A museum, triggering some happy memories for DJ Taylor
Bill Granger recipes: Our chef succumbs to his sugar cravings with super-luxurious sweet treats

Bill Granger's luxurious sweet treats

Our chef loves to stop for 30 minutes to catch up on the day's gossip, while nibbling on something sweet
London Marathon 2015: Paula Radcliffe and the mother of all goodbyes

The mother of all goodbyes

Paula Radcliffe's farewell to the London Marathon will be a family affair
Everton vs Manchester United: Steven Naismith demands 'better' if Toffees are to upset the odds against United

Steven Naismith: 'We know we must do better'

The Everton forward explains the reasons behind club's decline this season
Arsenal vs Chelsea: Praise to Arsene Wenger for having the courage of his convictions

Michael Calvin's Last Word

Praise to Wenger for having the courage of his convictions