Tuesday 12 December 2017

McDowell gets Ryder flashback

Actor James Nesbitt at the first hole during the Alfred Dunhill Links Championship at St Andrews yesterday. Photo: PA
Actor James Nesbitt at the first hole during the Alfred Dunhill Links Championship at St Andrews yesterday. Photo: PA

Bernie McGuire at Kingsbarns

Graeme McDowell found himself standing over a putt on day one of the Alfred Dunhill Links Championship that ignited thoughts of the dramatic 10-foot gem he holed for birdie on Monday that all but delivered the Ryder Cup back into European hands.

McDowell was on the 17th green at Kingsbarns -- and the circumstances couldn't have been much different from Celtic Manor.

The Portrushman had 25 feet to the flag and, unlike the scenes last Monday when some 10,000 spectators packed themselves around the green, there were just a hundred or so very orderly spectators standing from behind ropes watching McDowell and his father, Kenny.

wandered

"It was probably the first time that my mind wandered back to what I did on 16 on Monday," said McDowell.

McDowell was immediately quizzed: "So, what happened? Did you hole it?"

The Portrushman laughed in replying: "No, I misread it hopelessly and missed it to the right for a par."

All nine winning European team players -- as well as captain Colin Montgomerie and the two Irish vice-captains Paul McGinley and Darren Clarke -- contesting the event, found themselves being congratulated at every turn of Kingsbarns.

Rory McIlroy, whose round included an eagle at the par-five third hole, summed up the atmosphere.

"It was fantastic as everyone was saying well done for last week, so it was just great," said McIlroy. "It's great to get that sort of reception."

McIlroy spoilt his score with a double bogey at the par-three 15th but remained in an upbeat mood.

"Overall, it wasn't too bad, and I am going to St Andrews tomorrow where I feel as if I can shoot a good score," said McIlroy. "My only hope is that it's a much better score than the last time I played the Old Course on a Friday."

However, there was some concern for Lee Westwood, who had been side-lined for seven weeks leading up to the Ryder Cup. The Englishman, who secured two and a half points for Europe, feared he may have again injured his right ankle after a round of 70.

But after attending the Tour's physio staff for treatment, his fears were allayed.

"I felt a twinge and I guess I panicked a bit. The physio guys looked at it and they have calmed my fears so I am going to continue playing," said Westwood.

Four players -- Thomas Bjorn, Martin Laird, Maarten Lafeber and Ricardo Gonzalez -- head the field at five-under par.

Germany's Martin Kaymer is the best of the victorious European side after carding a four-under-par 68. Shane Lowry is the best-placed of the dozen Irish competing following a three-under-par 69 at St Andrews.

Peter Lawrie has 1980s rock star Huey Lewis, of Huey Lewis And The News fame, as his amateur partner this week.

"Huey was great to play with and let me say he was happy to be stuck with me," said Lawrie, smiling after his score of 70 at Kingsbarns.

McGinley looked despondent after his round of a two-over-par 74 that included six birdies, but also double bogeys at four and the last. "I've got a splitting headache and after having last week off from competition, I think I am paying the price," said McGinley.

And Clarke was equally annoyed after his four-over-par 76. "It seems I'm back to the same old frustrating stuff again," he said.

Irish Independent

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