McDowell makes bold opening statement - Golf - Sport - The Independent

McDowell makes bold opening statement

For the second time in three years Graeme McDowell held the clubhouse lead in the first round of the Open Championship yesterday; yet this time around the Ulsterman appears so much more likely to retain this coveted position. Last week's Scottish Open victor is in the form of his golfing life and playing in the conditions that formulated his golfing life. McDowell is clearly partial to a bit of wind. Almost as partial as Royal Birkdale.

Click here for the latest leaderboard and statistics

This was a torrid opening day at the Southport links, when each and every one of the 156 competitors had at least one bogey on their card. McDowell and his fellow early pacesetters, Rocco Mediate and Robert Allenby, took full advantage of going out in the best of the weather to record one-under 69s. In behind them on level par was a group including Greg Norman.

In many respects the veteran's jaunt down memory fairway was the biggest news; especially when put alongside the disgraceful actions of Sandy Lyle – three years Norman's junior – who walked off after just 10 holes. In contrast, Norman battened down the hatches and fought on to a remarkable 70. The 53-year-old has not played in an Open for three years, any other major for five years, and is only here to warm up for next week's Senior Open at Troon. After this wintry experience Norman can hardly claim to be warm. But boy, does his game still sizzle

So, too, does that of McDowell. The pride of Portrush revealed he ventured out with a game plan "to treat every 18 holes as a series of little challenges where par would be a great score". In the event the 28-year-old notched up 15 of them with just the one bogey on the almost impossible sixth and two birdies downwind to finish. "I feel like a different player now to two years ago," said McDowell, who has already cemented his position in September's Ryder Cup. "I was a rabbit in the headlights at Hoylake. Then I didn't have a lot of belief in my game, couldn't string four rounds together. Now I know I can."

Mediate has also enjoyed a recent rocket to his confidence. At the US Open last month, the 45-year-old took Tiger Woods to sudden death in an 18-hole play-off and proceeded to become America's grinning hero. Yesterday the Pennsylvanian was at it again, overcoming a sluggish start with incredible panache and positivity.

To play the last 13 holes here in four-under was a feat that amazed everyone, particularly considering the back condition he suffers that requires a following physio to snap it back in during his round. Mediate is a popular character in the locker room and congratulations carried on coming to him, McDowell and the Aussie Allenby long into the night. At the same time, some of his playing pals quietly informed Rocco how fortunate he had been. They say the scoreboard never lies. Fair enough. But on topsy-turvy days such as this it does not begin to tell the whole story. To comment that the morning starters received the rough end of the draw was like labelling the conditions that greeted those poor dolts as "inclement". They were forced to play through a consistent downpour and high winds and then suffered the further torture of watching the rains disappear and the gusts drop markedly.

At the very least there was a two-shot difference, although some of the most affected professionals were inevitably claiming it to be more. Ernie Els and Vijay Singh shot 80s, while Phil Mickelson, the acting world No 1 in the absence of Woods, slumped to a 79.

It was Els' worst score in 19 years of playing in his favourite major by four shots. The South African's shell-shocked expression summed up an opening morning that ranks right up there with the most difficult of them in 137 years of the Open.

Not everyone on the early shift played their way out of the tournament. Retief Goosen conjured a one-over 71 that seemed destined to take the first-day honours until the golfing gods took their finger off the carnage button. For the home crowd, Ian Poulter fired a courageous 72, while Colin Montgomerie put a lifetime of despising anything stronger than a breeze behind him with a 73. But on looking at the brightening sky the experienced Scot knew the significance.

"We've had the worst of the weather, no doubt about it," declared Montgomerie. "When you come here, you pray that the Open is fair at least, so let's hope tomorrow follows a similar path weather-wise. Let's hope we afternoon starters get a decent run at it. But he's in charge."

As Monty spoke he pointed to the sky. Well, it made a change from blaming the Royal and Ancient. The venerable organisers were inevitably going to take some flak as the bitter professionals peered down the horror of their numbers. None of them laid in quite like Jerry Kelly, a man for whom the phrase "whingeing American" seems invented.

"This is the worse set-up I've ever seen," raged the Wisconsinite following an 83. "I couldn't even reach four of the fairways off the tees. They knew this weather was coming yesterday and should have used common sense – they didn't."

Kelly's contention was that the R&A should have moved the tees forward to make the three hardest par-fours – the sixth, 11th and 16th – shorter. Yet as Peter Dawson, the chief executive of the R&A, later explained, it was not quite as easy as that. Reaching the fairways on the sixth and the 16th was not a problem to most, while there is not another tee to use on the 11th.

"It was a tough day by the seaside," was Dawson's appraisal, although he warned it could get even tougher. Today will witness more of the same – sorry Monty, but there will probably be no respite – while on Saturday there is, in Dawson's words "a 50-50 chance of winds of more than 45mph. If it was that colossal and balls were moving on the greens, we may have to suspend play," he added with a wince. The fun has only just begun.

Tee-off times for today's second round

(GB or Irl unless stated)

06.30 J van de Velde (Fr), S Webster, A Tampion (Aus)

06.41 P Walton, D Smail (NZ), M Letzig (US)

06.52 P Waring, H Otto (SA), K Stadler (US)

07.03 Paul Lawrie, R Mediate (US), A Cabrera (Arg)

07.14 N Fasth (Swe), M O'Meara (US), M Campbell (NZ)

07.25 G McDowell, R Sabbatini (SA), T Hamilton (US)

07.36 J Furyk (US), N Dougherty, C Villegas (Col)

07.47 R Karlsson (Swe), G Norman (Aus), W Austin (US)

07.58 R Allenby (Aus), S Stricker (US), *B Herbert (Fr)

08.09 A Scott (Aus), Z Johnson (US), P Larrazabal (Sp)

08.20 G Havret (Fr), T Clark (SA), S Cink (US)

08.31 Wen-chong Liang (Ch), F Jacobson (Swe), J Overton (US)

08.42 T Immelman (SA), S Hansen (Den), A Kim (US)

08.58 M A Jimenez (Sp), S Ames (Can), C Howell III (US)

09.09 P Hanson (Swe), B Bryant (US), R Pampling (Aus)

09.20 R Imada (Japan), S Garcia (Sp), S O'Hair (US)

09.31 S Appleby (Aus), B Snedeker (US), R Fisher

09.42 A Yano (Japan), J Edfors (Swe), T Lehman (US)

09.53 S Wakefield, J Williamson (US), J Kingston (SA)

10.04 G Bourdy (Fr), D Chia (Malay), J Rollins (US)

10.15 P Marksaeng (Thai), *C Wood, S McCarron (US)

10.26 A Wall, A Noren (Swe), E Porter (Aus)

10.37 P Baker, H Iwata (Japan), A Cejka (Ger)

10.48 D Labelle (US), Chih-bing Lam (Sing), J-F Lima (Por)

10.59 M Wiegele (Aut), A Que (Phil), D McGuigan

11.10 J Lomas, Y Tsukada (Japan), P Appleyard

11.41 L Glover (US), C Parry (Aus), S Dyson

11.52 J-B Gonnet (Fr), P Perez (US), P Fowler (Aus)

12.03 S Kjeldsen (Den), B Jones (Aus), M Kuchar (US)

12.14 J Kelly (US), D Fichardt (SA), D McGrane

12.25 G Storm, S Strange (Aus)

12.36 R Green (Aus), M Calcavecchia (US), A Hansen (Den)

12.47 T Watson (US), J Rose, A Baddeley (Aus)

12.58 G Ogilvy (Aus), O Wilson, D Love III (US)

13.09 R Goosen (SA), P Harrington, J Leonard (US)

13.20 R Sterne (SA), H Stenson (Swe), J Quinney (US)

13.31 H Mahan (US), V Singh (Fiji), *R Saxton (Neth)

13.42 M Kaymer (Ger), S Verplank (US), E Els (SA)

13.53 D Howell, A Romero (Arg), J B Holmes (US)

14.09 L Westwood, K J Choi (S Kor), B Curtis (US)

14.20 N O'Hern (Aus), I Poulter, P Goydos (US)

14.31 P Mickelson (US), H Tanihara (Japan), P Casey

14.42 B Weekley (US), C Montgomerie, M Weir (Can)

14.53 H Slocum (US), R Finch, J Daly (US)

15.04 D Duval (US), S Khan, D Frost (SA)

15.15 R Beem (US), P Edberg (Swe), *T Sherreard

15.26 M Matsumura (Japan), T Gillis (US), B Hume

15.37 S Kai (Japan), T Petrovic (US), D Horsey

15.48 A Canete (Arg), C Barlow (US), P Archer

15.59 J Elson, *R Blizard (Aus), J Bevan

16.10 A Blyth (Aus), J Howarth, J Cunliffe (SA)

16.21 T Aiken (SA), G Boyd, B Lamb (Aus)

* denotes amateur

TV Times

Live: BBC 2 09.00-19.15.

Highlights: Today at the Open, BBC 2 19.15-20.00.

Weather

Cloudy with further spells of rain or drizzle, especially at first. Minimum temperature 13C, maximum 17C. Moderate to fresh west to south-west breezes (15-20mph).

Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Latest in Sport
Sport
Caption competition
Caption competition
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Daily Quiz
SPONSORED FEATURES
Independent Dating
and  

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

Career Services

Day In a Page

Mullah Omar, creator of the Taliban, is dead... for the fourth time

Mullah Omar, creator of the Taliban, is dead... again

I was once told that intelligence services declare their enemies dead to provoke them into popping up their heads and revealing their location, says Robert Fisk
Margaret Attwood on climate change: 'Time is running out for our fragile, Goldilocks planet'

Margaret Attwood on climate change

The author looks back on what she wrote about oil in 2009, and reflects on how the conversation has changed in a mere six years
New Dr Seuss manuscript discovered: What Pet Should I Get? goes on sale this week

New Dr Seuss manuscript discovered

What Pet Should I Get? goes on sale this week
Oculus Rift and the lonely cartoon hedgehog who could become the first ever virtual reality movie star

The cartoon hedgehog leading the way into a whole new reality

Virtual reality is the 'next chapter' of entertainment. Tim Walker gives it a try
Ants have unique ability to switch between individual and collective action, says study

Secrets of ants' teamwork revealed

The insects have an almost unique ability to switch between individual and collective action
Donovan interview: The singer is releasing a greatest hits album to mark his 50th year in folk

Donovan marks his 50th year in folk

The singer tells Nick Duerden about receiving death threats, why the world is 'mentally ill', and how he can write a song about anything, from ecology to crumpets
Let's Race simulator: Ultra-realistic technology recreates thrill of the Formula One circuit

Simulator recreates thrill of F1 circuit

Rory Buckeridge gets behind the wheel and explains how it works
Twitter accused of 'Facebookisation' over plans to overhaul reverse-chronological timeline

Twitter accused of 'Facebookisation'

Facebook exasperates its users by deciding which posts they can and can’t see. So why has Twitter announced plans to do the same?
Jane Birkin asks Hermès to rename bag - but what else could the fashion house call it?

Jane Birkin asks Hermès to rename bag

The star was shocked by a Peta investigation into the exotic skins trade
10 best waterproof mascaras

Whatever the weather: 10 best waterproof mascaras

We found lash-enhancing beauties that won’t budge no matter what you throw at them
Diego Costa biography: Chelsea striker's route to the top - from those who shared his journey

Diego Costa: I go to war. You come with me...

Chelsea's rampaging striker had to fight his way from a poor city in Brazil to life at the top of the Premier League. A new book speaks to those who shared his journey
Ashes 2015: England show the mettle to strike back hard in third Test

England show the mettle to strike back hard in third Test

The biggest problem facing them in Birmingham was the recovery of the zeitgeist that drained so quickly under the weight of Australian runs at Lord's, says Kevin Garside
Women's Open 2015: Charley Hull - 'I know I'm a good golfer but I'm also just a person'

Charley Hull: 'I know I'm a good golfer but I'm also just a person'

British teen keeps her feet on ground ahead of Women's Open
Turkey's conflict with Kurdish guerrillas in Iraq can benefit Isis in Syria

Turkey's conflict with Kurdish guerrillas in Iraq can benefit Isis in Syria

Turkish President Erdogan could benefit politically from the targeting of the PKK, says Patrick Cockburn
Yvette Cooper: Our choice is years of Tory rule under Jeremy Corbyn or a return to a Labour government

Our choice is years of Tory rule under Corbyn or a return to a Labour government

Yvette Cooper urged Labour members to 'get serious' about the next general election rather than become 'a protest movement'