After every golf writer's dream story line died around 5:15 a.m. ET on Thursday at Royal Portrush, the next-best one began to develop soon after. The only Portrush native in the field, Graeme McDowell, who got in via an epic par putt at the RBC Canadian Open, started climbing the leader board, and the "HOMETOWN HERO" headlines were already writing themselves. At three under through 14 holes, he wasn't just in the mix, he was one off the lead.
But not even all the local knowledge in the world could help him avoid the disaster that lurks at every corner in this Open Championship. McDowell's potentially special round began to fall apart at the 15th, where he dropped his first shot of the day. He made another bogey at 17 to fall back to one under, which is looking like a fine score to post. Needing only a par to do so, McDowell blocked his drive down the right side of the finishing par 4, his ball coming to rest in some high grass.
Despite having all of Northern Ireland search for his ball, McDowell could not find it in three minutes, which is the amount of allotted time you're allowed to search for a lost ball, per the new rule. A year ago, he would have had an extra two minutes, which would have come in handy given the fact G-Mac found his ball 12 seconds after the three minutes he was allowed. What. A. Dagger.
Understandably upset, McDowell took out his anger on his poor bag, channeling his inner Sebastian Janikowski with this soccer-style boot:
The 2010 U.S. Open winner then had to make the longest walk in golf—back to the 18th tee to hit his third shot. His hooked drive did find the fairway, but with a heavy wind in his face he was unable to get the ball close to get a look at bogey. He eventually walked off with a triple-bogey 7, dropping him from the top 15 to a tie for 75th. When asked about the new time limit rule change following the round, McDowell had this to say, per Golf.com's Dylan Dethier:
We feel your pain, G-Mac. That was tough to watch. Hopefully he can bounce back on Friday and make the weekend. He's currently six off the lead of Ireland's Shane Lowry.