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McIlroy shares 10th, McDowell in top 20 on rain-soaked L.I.

February 17, 2011

By Staff Reporter

Lost amid the buzz over the final pairings battling to take the trophy, McIlroy quietly snuck up the leaderboard on Monday morning, shooting 68 (bettered only by Ian Poulter and matched by Henrik Stenson) to take a share of 10th place at 282 (72-70-72-68). Lucas Glover shot 276 for the victory at Long Island’s Bethpage State Park Black Course.
Graeme McDowell remained on the fringes of contention early on and held on well to stake a claim to 18th place at 284 (69-72-69-74).
McIlroy, playing in his first U.S. Open, avoided any serious bad runs. He recorded four bogeys and a double bogey in the first round, but was able to offset those with four birdies, including a sequence of three consecutive birdies on the front nine. In his final tour of the course, he had only one blemish on his card against three birdies.
His first excursion into New York as a professional golfer left a positive impression on McIlroy, although the frequent rain delays weren’t welcome.
“I don’t think I’ve ever played a tournament with a Monday finish before,” McIlroy said. “It is very stop/start, but it’s frustrating when you get a bit of a good run going that you have to stop and try and do it all over again tomorrow.
“The atmosphere has been great, especially playing with Anthony [Kim], which is just as well, because I have played three rounds over four days with him. But obviously he is popular because he was a Ryder Cup hero last year and there are a fair few Irish in New York, so the support we have had has been great and helped us along a bit.”
McDowell stayed within reach of the leaders throughout the first three rounds, also avoiding the blunders that spell the end of one’s aspirations. Not until the fourth and final round did he begin backing up. He played the first seven holes evenly before bogeys ensued at the eighth, 10th and 12th holes. A double bogey at 15 (his second such result there in two days) cropped up at 15, although he birdied 18 to finish on an up note.
“It’s kind of a relief it’s all over,” McDowell said on Monday. “But that wasn’t quite what I had in mind, last round 74. Left some putts out there, missed a few fairways on the back. Looking back, obviously I’ve been ruining some chances. Had a chance to win this tournament.”
Although McDowell putted well – his average of 1.65 putts per green compares well to Glover’s 1.61 – he noted an inconsistency in the speeds of the greens that perplexed him on Monday.
“Some of the greens are better than others,” McDowell said. “That was affecting the speed of them a lot and I felt like I lost my speed around the turn today. I really felt kind of defensive on the greens. I left a couple short.”
Still, McDowell realizes that maybe his day is not far off.
“You know, the more times you put yourself in the mix, the more experience you can gain from that, and you can kind of learn from that experience and sort of analyze the weaknesses in your game,” McDowell said. “Work on those and come back. I want to win majors very soon in my career, and I’m slowly becoming the kind of player I want to become.”
Padraig Harrington has been there before and now is in a new, unwelcome, place, trying to figure out what has gone wrong. He missed the cut by eight strokes, shooting consecutive rounds of 76 while playing with Tiger Woods and Angel Cabrera.
Darren Clarke also had a trying time, carding rounds of 74 and 76, to bring about an early exit.

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