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McDowell sits pretty in Ohio

Graeme McDowell has finally shrugged off any lingering US Open victory hangover to finish in a share of second place after the opening round of the WGC Bridgestone Invitational.

McDowell delighted his new-found American fans when he birdied his closing four holes in humid conditions in Akron, Ohio.

American Bubba Watson, who broke through for a first US Tour success a week after McDowell won at Pebble Beach, leads the Firestone event by two strokes on six under par.

McDowell is tied with Australia's Adam Scott and Americans Kenny Perry and Phil Mickelson on four under.

McDowell is also the leading Irishman, Rory McIlroy carded a 68 and Pádraig Harrington, who accompanied McDowell for a second successive week, complained of dehydration after signing for a one-under 69.

McDowell's effort was only the second time he's broken par in 13 rounds on the tight tree-lined Ohio course.

"It was a nice finish and I played good. I hit a lot of fairways and the only one I missed was the 10th where I had my only bogey of the day. It's probably the best golf I've played since Pebble Beach," McDowell said.

"I feel like a weight has been lifted off my shoulders as I have not really been in the limelight (this week). I have been a bit under the radar."

Since capturing the US Open, McDowell has made no secret that he's struggled to reproduce his Pebble Beach form, but he could not have been happier in reminding the American public of the enormity of his golfing talent.

"The three events I've played since Pebble, the Scottish Open, British Open, and Irish Open, they're three difficult events," he said.

"They're normally tough weeks for me and then you add in all the US Open-winning stuff. So it's been tough to deal with, but somehow coming out here, I felt a lot fresher and just a lot better about myself.

"The Tiger Woods show is in town, so we'll have him in the limelight."

Harrington recorded two birdies, but also three bogeys in his score of 69 that handed him a share of 18th place in the 81-player field.

However, not for a first occasion when competing in hot and humid conditions, the triple major winner battled with staying hydrated.

"I am pleased with one-under considering I got dehydrated. My mind was racing and the body wasn't co-ordinated," Harrington said.

McIlroy had earlier birdied three holes in succession from his 10th hole to end with a 68.

The current World No8 had birdied his first hole, but then dropped two shots over the next three holes.

In contrast, Tiger Woods is keen to recover from a poor opening round.

The 14-time major winner's 270-week reign as world number one is under threat after his four-over-par 74.

Woods managed two birdies in a round decimated by six bogeys, including four on the front nine, and he was joint 70th on the leaderboard.

"I've just got to hopefully get it to even par or under par for the tournament and then hopefully put together a good weekend and see where that puts me," said Woods, who was 10 shots behind clubhouse leader Watson.

"I didn't play well. It's frustrating because I warmed up well, my practice sessions at home were good and today was not indicative of how I've been playing," said Woods.


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