McDowell rues his wayward driving but still makes impressive headway
Graeme McDowell might well have posted his best-ever round score at The Masters but for some wayward driving.
McDowell was "reasonably pleased" with the 71 which earned him a share of 18th on one-under with fellow Ulsterman Rory McIlroy. In all, 30 players posted sub-par rounds.
"I didn't drive the ball very well but hung in there," said the Portrush man. "It was a pleasing start but I've a bit of work to do tomorrow."
McDowell missed the cut in five of seven appearances at Augusta but broke par in the first round at The Masters for the first time since an opening 69 in 2009.
The key to yesterday's effort in an otherwise gloomy year was McDowell's exhibition around and on uncommonly receptive greens.
But for three tee shots he pulled left into the trees, leading to bogey at seven, 11 and 14, McDowell might have pressed the leaders after five birdies, including three in four holes through 16. There was a little pain at 18, where he failed to get up and down out of a greenside trap.
Shane Lowry endured all the thrills and, yes, spills of a roller-coaster ride on his Masters debut. In tribute to the Clara man's 'never-say-die' spirit, he was able to emerge with some consolation from his three-over par 75.
Lowry visited 'McIlroy Creek' in the trees on his way to a bogey six at the second; made double-bogey six out of the pond to the left of the 11th green, followed two holes later by a heart-rending seven at the long 13th.
The 28-year-old drove into the trees at that picturesque par-five, dropped out, and then three putted from 43 feet, a dispiriting train of events and, in conjunction with that double-bogey two holes earlier.
Given the two hefty body-blows Lowry took in mid-round, his recovery on the final five holes was splendid.
He holed from 13 feet for birdie at 14; lipped out with a five-footer at 15 then fashioned a sweet two at 16 with a superb tee shot to five feet.
Though Padraig Harrington signed for 72 on his return to Augusta, the Dubliner was utterly crestfallen and not just because he dropped a couple of shots on the final three holes.
"I'd a bad day on the greens, I didn't hole anything," said Harrington, bitterly disappointed at his failure to take advantage of superb scoring conditions, in particular the uncommonly receptive putting surfaces.
The 43-year-old had 35 putts, in total yesterday. Thankfully, Dr Bob Rotella was on hand at the finish to talk him down.