Graeme McDowell’s decision to ‘clear the head’ of too many technical thoughts and also focus on being back in Europe worked in posting a 69 on the opening day of the Aberdeen Standard Investments Scottish Open.
McDowell, in his first event on European soil in a year, ended the opening round of the near Euro6m event just outside the top-20 with his two-under par score on the Renaissance course to the east of Edinburgh.
Lee Westwood, 47, brilliantly turned back the clock with two eagles and five birdies in a nine-under par 62 to lead the field by a single stroke heading into day two.
The effort is Westwood’s lowest round in 17-years since a similar 62 at Kingsbarns Links on route to victory in the 2013 Alfred Dunhill Links Championship, also in Scotland.
McDowell commenced his round with a bogey but then three birdies at the next three odd numbered holes had the World No.61 into the red at two-under par.
McDowell gave one back after a wayward drive at the par-5 10th before seeing a fourth birdie drop at the par-3 12th hole ahead of six closing pars.
“My driver misbehaved quite a lot, so I am reasonably happy with the score at the end of the day as I hung in there well, and like I said, after not driving the ball all that well,” he said.
“My iron play was good and I felt really good on the greens and I feel if I can get in play tomorrow there is a score to be had.
“We were very fortunate with the weather as I woke up this morning and saw the guys were having some tough conditions. We came out this afternoon and it was very benign but you’ve got to take the rough with the smooth when that happens.
“I certainly feel like I am turning the corner with my game a little bit and looking forward to getting back out there tomorrow and getting it in play off the tee a little better.”
McDowell arrived in Scotland coming off missing the cut in both the U.S. Open and also in last week’s defence of his Corales Puntacana Championship in the Dominican Republic.
And while the reigning Saudi International champ reckons he’s got a handle on the downturn in his game, there’s also McDowell’s clear delight being back in Europe where he’s savoured half of his 16 worldwide pro career wins.
“My golf swing has been getting very technical lately,” he said.
“At Winged Foot I was far too technical with my golf swing and I am really trying to clear the head a little bit and play some golf and start trusting my technique a little bit.
“It has been hard not to be very analytical the last couple of months because I haven’t played well. Whether that has been the lack of crowds and intensity or just bad technique, I have no idea.
“Obviously, I have been blaming my golf swing and I am looking very hard at that. But I am just trying to reset and play golf and it is really nice to come to a different environment completely, get out of the States, come over here and get a bit of confidence going at an event I have won in the past on a golf course that is fun to play and some birdies to be had out there. I am just trying to build that confidence back up again.
“It’s been a year to the week as it was at the Dunhill Links when I was last in Europe. It’s great to come back. This is the roots of my professional career and so many guys I grew up playing with.
“I’ve good memories of the Scottish Open in years gone by so it’s always nice to come back. I am looking forward to these two weeks.
“They’ve done a nice job here at Renaissance with the golf course. It has evolved quite a lot since last year and I’m looking forward to getting down to Wentworth next week.
“It’s been a few years since I played there and hopefully, we can get in for the weekend here, make some birdies and compete and take some confidence down to the BMW PGA next week.”
Padraig Harrington was out in the morning half of the draw and fought back from two-over par through 13 holes to then birdie three holes in succession in an eventual round of level par 71.
Harrington has always been a strong supporter of the Scottish having teed-up in the event for a 10th year in succession with his best finish being a T4th in 2017 at Dundonald Links on the Scottish west coast.
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