Classy McDowell gets back in the groove
FIRST, Graeme McDowell needed to knock off a little ring rust. Once that was achieved, the Portrush hero showed all the class of a Major champion as he loped into contention with a three-under-par 69 in yester-day's first round of the Austrian Open.
Though four strokes off the searing pace set by George Koetzee's opening 65 at the Diamond Country Club near Vienna, US Open winner McDowell fired a warning shot across the South African's bows as he played the back nine in a sizzling five-under 31.
With Damien McGrane purring into fourth following a splendid 67 and Simon Thornton tied 10th with McDowell after a tidy 69 of his own, it promises to be an exciting weekend for the Irish in Austria.
McDowell travelled to central Europe intent on getting his game in order for the Ryder Cup at Celtic Manor in a fortnight's time.
Though his hitting of the ball had been "unbelievably good" in practice since Monday, the Ulsterman dropped two shots in the opening three holes of his first competitive round in just under five weeks.
Despite hitting just two fairways on his outward nine, McDowell "leaned heavily on his short game" before clicking into top gear on the way home, shooting five birdies and going close to two or three more.
Impressive, indeed, though McDowell admitted: "I played the first three holes awful and it was beginning to look like one of those days, yet I hung in really tough. On the back nine you can make a score on this course and I hit a few good shots and sank a few good putts."
"It's really just about getting a card in my pocket this weekend and playing some competitive golf. I've got next week off and have some practice planned with my coach. So, I've come here to shake the rust off. I'm very excited about the Ryder Cup, we've got a great team and I want to go there with my game in shape.
"It's tough to do any work on your game in Ryder Cup week, so it's very important I get four rounds of competitive golf this weekend and put in some good work next week."
Justifiably, McGrane was "very happy" with his effort yesterday.
"I birdied all the par-fives, which for me was a big thing. It's a good start to the week," added the Kells man who hit a phenomenal purple patch in mid-round, picking up shots on six of eight holes in mid-round.
Miguel Angel Jimenez, also playing his final event before the Ryder Cup, stalled with a level-par 72, while Gary Murphy was tied 63rd after his 73.
- A nice birdie three at the final hole brought Colm Moriarty's first round at the M2M Russian Open to a satisfying conclusion, a 71 leaving him tied 13th on one-under par, four behind leader, Scotland's Jamie McLeary.
Live, Sky Sports 3, 10.0