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McDowell five shy in Houston

SWEDEN'S Carl Pettersson and Argentina's Angel Cabrera set the clubhouse target before bad weather brought an early end to play in the first round of the Houston Open, with Graeme McDowell's two-under-par 70 leaving him five shots off the pace.

After starting at the 10th, McDowell (pictured), who finished runner-up to Tiger Woods at the Arnold Palmer Invitational in Florida last Sunday, suffered an eagle double bogey and, while five birdies improved him to three under, he dropped a late shot.

Cabrera birdied the 18th to complete a flawless seven-under-par 65 shortly before lightning in the regionforced the players from the course at Redstone Golf Club.

Pettersson was already safely in the clubhouse by that point after carding eight birdies and one bogey – on the 17th – in his opening round.

Pettersson, out of form coming into the tournament, admitted even he had been slightly surprised by his round.


Asked where it had come from, Pettersson said: “I don't know. I've missed the last two cuts. I haven't played very well.”

American duo Jeff Maggert and Ricky Barnes were a shot further |back after rounds of 66, while England's Lee Westwood also made a good start with a round of 68 to lie four under.

Westwood will make his 56th attempt to win a major at next week's US Masters, and for the fourth year running is warming up in Houston.

But the world number three did not stop off at Augusta National en route this time.

“I didn't think it was that necessary,” the 38-year-old said. “It's a nice place to go and soak up the atmosphere with nobody there and get some work done, but the course isn't really reflective of how it's going to be on Thursday morning next week.

“It changes so much in three days. I just decided not to this year and thought the extra couple of days at home would do me more good.”

Westwood was runner-up to Phil Mickelson at Augusta two years ago, while Cabrera claimed the coveted green jacket in 2009.

By the time the rain came, 51 players had finished their rounds yesterday, and organisers scheduled a start time of 7.30am today (1.30pm Irish-time).

Open champion Darren Clarke and Pádraig Harrington were both among the later staters at the Redstone course.

Clarke was level par after two holes, with Harrington parring the opening hole before the suspension in play in the Texan city.