McDowell keeps himself alive after day of 'grinding'
Graeme McDowell put his lost clubs frustrations behind him before finding his links game to keep his hopes of a maiden Dubai Duty Free Irish Open victory alive with a battling back-nine comeback at Ballyliffin.
The former world number four mixed three birdies with five bogeys in his first 10 holes before digging deep on the way home, picking up late birdies at the fourth, sixth and eighth to open with a one-under-par 71.
"It was a grinding performance," the Portrush man said. "It was one of those days that could have got away, and was happy to keep it under control and post something sort of half-decent.
"I made some nice swings down the stretch, which was pleasing because I struggled early on."
struggled The former US Open champion has had just one top-10 finish in 16 appearances in the event so he was more than pleased to break par on a day when defending champion Jon Rahm shot a frustrating 74 and Rafa Cabrera Bello a 76.
Rahm struggled to keep his temper in check as he double-bogeyed the 18th and the first - his ninth and 10th - but McDowell found the big Basque great company all day.
"Very talented player," he said. "He seemed really irritated with himself this morning, not really sure why. He's such a talented player and I'd expect him to be back firing on all cylinders tomorrow.
"Maybe as defending champion you just put that extra pressure on yourself. That extra expectation level, but he's such an impressive player. He's one of those guys who just gets irritated with himself and isn't destructive for anyone else."
Elsewhere, at the The Greenbrier, birdies on the 14th and 17th holes earned a level par round of 70 for Seamus Power. He trails clubhouse leader Joaquin Niemann by seven shots.
Today's tee times
07:30 D Brooks (Eng), S Gros (Fra), C Sharvin (NI)
07:40 O Farr (Wal), N O’Briain (Irl), J Winther (Den)
07:50 J Lagergren (Swe), R Bland (Eng), A Dodt (Aus)
08:00 A Romero (Arg), G Bourdy (Fra), J Wang (Kor)
08:10 L Jensen (Den), C Paisley (Eng), R Wattel (Fra)
08:20 M Nixon (Eng), N Elvira (Esp), D Fichardt (RSA)
08:30 T Aiken (RSA), M Manassero (Ita), B Dredge (Wal)
08:40 D Im (USA). T Immelman (RSA), J Walters (RSA)
08:50 C Syme (Sco), A Bland (Aus), C Shinkwin (Eng)
09:00) C Sordet (Fra), S Brazel (Aus), C Moriarty (Irl)
09:10 C Bezuidenhout (RSA), R Hyun Cho (Kor), H Porteous (RSA)
09:20 J Guerrier (Fra), C Koepka (USA), M Schwab (Aut)
09:30 L Gagli (Ita), A Rai (Eng), M Kieffer (Ger)
07:30 P Waring (Eng), R Sterne (RSA), M Siem (Ger)
07:40 P Larrazabal (Esp), T Detry (Bel), L Slattery (Eng)
07:50 G Moynihan (Irl), A Connelly (Can), D Burmester (RSA)
08:00 P Uihlein (USA), Haotong Li (Chn), J Suri (USA)
08:10 P Dunne (Irl), M Wallace (Eng), A Levy (Fra)
08:20 R McIlroy (NI), M Fitzpatrick (Eng), T Olesen (Den)
08:30 S Lowry (Irl), L Westwood (Eng), T Pieters (Bel)
08:40 R Karlsson (Swe), R Knox (Sco), A Björk (Swe)
08:50 D Clarke (NI), T Bjorn (Den), D Willett (Eng)
09:00 P McGinley (Irl), T Jaidee (Tha), D Howell (Eng)
09:10 SSP Chawrasia (Ind), G Fernandez - Castano (Esp), G Coetzee (RSA)
09:20 H Tanihara (Jpn), R Ramsay (Sco), S Fernandez (Esp)
09:30 Z Lombard (RSA), R Jacquelin (Fra), F Aguilar (Chi)
12:30 R Evans (Eng), F Zanotti (Par), M Kinhult (Swe)
12:40 B Rumford (Aus), S Jamieson (Sco), M Southgate (Eng)
12:50 J Campillo (Esp), N Colsaerts (Bel), R Fox (Nzl)
13:00 M Ilonen (Fin), A Otaegui (Esp), Y Miyazato (Jpn)
13:10 A Sullivan (Eng), M Korhonen (Fin), D Frittelli (RSA)
13:20 J Rahm (Esp), G McDowell (NI), R Cabrera Bello (Esp)
13:30 K Aphibarnrat (Tha), P Harrington (Irl), C Wood (Eng)
13:40 L Bjerregaard (Den), E Pepperell (Eng), C Blomstrand (Swe)
13:50 S Sharma (Ind), J Smith (Eng), S Kjeldsen (Den)
14:00 J Choi (Kor), T Pulkkanen (Fin), C Pigem (Esp)
14:10 A Quiros (Esp), E Molinari (Ita), E Van Rooyen (RSA)
14:20 C McNamara (Irl), S Thornton (Irl), B Neil (Sco)
14:30 M Lorenzo-Vera (Fra), G Green (Mas), D Lipsky (USA)
12:30 M Foster (Eng), A Wu (Chn), P Oriol (Esp)
12:40 J Dantorp (Swe), D Drysdale (Sco), J Morrison (Eng)
12:50 H Sturehed (Swe), G Havret (Fra)
13:00 A Saddier (Fra, A Chesters (Eng), P Khongwatmai (Tha)
13:10 A Pavan (Ita), B Hebert (Fra), M Baldwin (Eng)
13:20 L Canter (Eng), R Rock (Eng), D Horsey (Eng)
13:30 J Scrivener (Aus), S Gallacher (Sco), O Fisher (Eng)
13:40 S Brown (Eng), N Bertasio (Ita), M Fraser (Aus)
13:50 P Hanson (Swe), S Hend (Aus), M Pavon (Fra)
14:00 J Kruyswijk (RSA), B Stone (RSA), S Lee (Kor)
14:10 S Horsfield (Eng), W Ormsby (Aus), R Gouveia (Por)
14:20 N Geyger (Chi), C Ford (Eng), R Paratore (Ita)
14:30 J Norris (Aus), R McGee (Irl), M Warren (Sco)