Graeme McDowell was delighted to be ‘burning daylight’ as playing partner Corey Conners combined to be just one shot from the lead with a 15-under par 57 on day one of the QBE Championship.
McDowell and Conners brilliantly posted a 17th hole eagle ‘3’ and 13 birdies in a best-ball format but under a ‘preferred lie’ rule on the Gold course at Tiburon near Naples on Florida’s west coast.
It handed the 42-year-old McDowell and his 29-year-old team-mate the lead before being overhauled by the Aussie duo of Jason Day and Marc Leishman who combined to shoot a 16-under par 56 in the 54-hole, three-day event being hosted by Greg Norman.
The defending duo of Matt Kuchar and Harris English then birdied the last to tie McDowell and Conner in second place. And afterwards ‘G Mac’ was singing the praises of his Canadian-born partner:
“Corey was fantastic and he’s had a couple of fantastic years on the PGA Tour, so I was very much looking forward to getting this partnership going this week,” said McDowell.
“He drove the ball fantastically today and the biggest obstacle I had out there was trying to keep my rhythm on the tee-box as he was hitting 320-yards down the middle.
“Then I would tee my ball up and I just felt like I was burning daylight out there. Corey played lovely today and, like I say, we are enjoying the partnership and very happy with our progress and looking forward to kicking on tomorrow.”
Watching McDowell and Conners was a classical example of golf dove-tailing or as McDowell said ‘ham-and-egging’ and on so many occasions McDowell putting the approach shot close and then having a front row seat in watching Conners hole the birdie putt.
“I just felt like we ham-and-egged well as I had some nice wedge shots, I putted well early and with Corey putting fantastic on the back nine,” said McDowell.
“This scramble format is about making putts. You can play really well out there and make it to 10 feet all day and miss a bunch of them and it can be frustrating, but we seemed to kind of have good momentum.
“Like I said, I holed some putts at the right times and Corey’s putter really got hot there the last five or six holes, which was lovely.”
McDowell is making his ninth appearance in this year’s twelve two-person team’s event but still looking for a first taste of success. He’s been runner-up on three occasions including 2018 when teamed with Emiliano Gillo, 2017 with Shane Lowry and in 2010 when the reigning US Open champion teamed with Darren Clarke.
Conners is making his second appearance and also just a month after he became a father after his wife Malory gave birth to a daughter.
“I mean, no real secrets to it, kind of do what we did today, try and get two balls down the fairway and try and just play our games,” he said.
“I can’t really try and force things. You can’t play scared or play conservative, you’ve got to still try and make some birdies. You know guys are going to shoot some low numbers with the golf course being fairly receptive and gettable.
“So, the key is focus on getting two balls down the fairway and whoever hits the iron shot, see if we can knock it in there close and make a putt.”
Just six shots separate the leaders from two teams at the bottom of the board on 10-under par and with just one one bogey among the dozen teams.
- Full scoring HERE