Thursday 18 July 2019

McDowell rolls back the years at Pebble Beach

Graeme McDowell. Photo: Sportsfile
Graeme McDowell. Photo: Sportsfile

Brian Keogh

Graeme McDowell looked set to turn back the clock to his 2010 US Open triumph before a three-putt at the last left him three shots off the early lead in the AT&T Pebble Beach Pro-Am.

The Portrush star (39) produced some vintage iron play just four months before he returns to the Monterey Peninsula for another US Open tilt.

As Shane Lowry continued his positive start to 2019, carding a one-under 71 at Spyglass Hill, McDowell made seven birdies in a four-under 68 in his first start for 11 weeks.

While he failed to get up and down from sand and dropped shots at the par-three fifth and 12th holes, his iron play was superb and his putting clinical as he made birdies at the second, fourth, sixth, ninth, 11th, 13th and 15th.

A poor three-putt bogey from 21 feet at the 18th took some of the gloss off his day but he was still just three shots behind early leader Brian Gay, who shot a seven-under 64 at Monterey Peninsula where four-time winner Phil Mickelson carded a 65 and Dustin Johnson and Jordan Spieth opened with 66s.

It was also a good opening day for Greystones' Paul Dunne, who posted a three-under 69 in the innovative ISPS Handa Vic Open in Melbourne.

The 2017 British Masters champion (26) has fallen from 65th to 132nd in the world over the past nine months but looks ready to move up again

"I felt that I was practising better than I was playing, which is frustrating," the Greystones star said of his struggle to score well during the Middle East swing.

"I guess it's just lack of sharpness, not having played for seven weeks. But I am looking to build off something this week to get this season kick-started really."

This week's $3 million event is two tournaments in one with Stephanie Meadow and Leona Maguire chasing equal prize money in the parallel LPGA Tour stop.

"It's pretty cool," Dunne said. "It definitely sets the tournament apart."

Meadow (27) notched four birdies in a three-under 70 at the Creek Course in her first event back on the LPGA Tour to trail England's Felicity Johnson by five shots.

Slieve Russell talent Maguire (24) ended the day tied 97th after a one-over 73 at the Beach Course, making just one birdie and two bogeys in a 32-putt round.

Michael Hoey (39) showed his class by opening with an immaculate, six-under 66 on the Beach to share 15th as Dunne's three-under 69 left him tied 65th.

And it was also a good day for Mount Juliet's Gavin Moynihan (24), who shot a bogey-free, five-under 67 at the longer but easier Creek Course to share 32nd as Portmarnock amateur Conor Purcell (21) battled back from three-over after nine to post a level par 72.

Leader Nick Flanagan shot a 10-under 62 on the Creek to lead by two shots from a six-man group that included fellow Australian James Nitties, who carded nine birdies in a row in a course record-equalling 64 at the Beach Couse.

Meanwhile, the Staysure Tour announced it would stage at least 19 seniors events in 2019, including four new tournaments. However, there is no revival of the Irish Senior Open, which was last played in 2010.

Pebble Beach Pro-Am

Sky Sports Golf 8.0pm

Vic Open

Sky Sports Golf from 4.0am

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