FARMINGDALE, N.Y.-- Graeme McDowell has the hang of playing the first round of major championships. Now he needs to get to the point where he can finish the job.
McDowell shot a one-under-par 69 to share the early clubhouse lead at Bethpage Black, and it's not his first time in that position.
Last year McDowell shared the first-round British Open lead with Rocco Mediate and Robert Allenby at Royal Birkdale but finished T-19 after a third-round 80. In 2006, he shot an opening-round 66 to lead the Open at Hoylake, where a young man recognized McDowell in a bar earlier in the week and gave him a tip.
"He said, 'You get it pretty laid off at the top, don't you?' " McDowell recalled. "I said, 'Yeah, I guess I do.' He said, 'Get a bit of work done on that, will you?' I said, 'Fantastic; thanks for that.'"
McDowell, a native of Northern Ireland who won the 2002 Fred Haskins Award at the University of Alabama-Birmingham, stumbled to a T-61 finish at Hoylake behind Tiger Woods after following the 66 with rounds of 73-72-79.
McDowell's British Open record also includes a T-11 in 2005 at St. Andrews, where he made a quadruple-bogey 8 at the Road Hole in the third round.
-- *Mike O'Malley