By Bernie McGuire in Saudi.
Former event champion Graeme McDowell admits he has more work to do on his game after posting a level par score on the opening day of the Asian Tour’s Saudi International.
McDowell, 43, fought back from being one-over through 14 holes to birdie his 15th hole in bright, warm but steady day-long windy conditions for a level par 70 on the Royal Greens course laid out along the Red Sea about a 90-minute drive north of Jeddah.
The 16-time PGA and DP World Tour winning Portrush man ended the day trailing seven shots behind fellow LIV golfer Abraham Ancer, with the Texas-based Mexican leading the way in the $US5m event with a seven-under 63.
In fact, the top-five in the Asian Tour’s first event of 2023 are mostly LIV golfers with Colombian Sebastian Munoz at six-under while Spaniard Sergio Garcia, South African Louis Oosthuizen and PGA Tour American Cameron Young are sharing third place at five-under.
“We were out here playing under lights late last year but today was probably my first round in some three months, so it showed a little bit out there this morning,” said McDowell.
“I’ve been working on a few aspects in my game and it always looks good on the range but then when you get a scorecard in your pocket that’s the best test as to where you’re at.
“So, I definitely struggled out there a little bit with my feelings but it’s not the end of the world and I will go back out there tomorrow having learned a lot today about where my game is at and where my swing is.
“These two weeks I am playing out here in the Middle East is about competing but they are also about getting ready for the main LIV Golf season starting at the end of this month in Mexico.
“There is always going to be that ‘suck it in and see where we’re at’ but, like I say, I’ve worked hard in the time off and I’ve just got to work a little harder.”
McDowell singled out his 10-foot birdie on the sixth hole or the 15th of his round as the highlight of his round.
“I figured out some stuff a few holes previously and got the benefit of hitting a 6-iron into the sixth and holing the birdie putt, so that was really nice,” said McDowell.
“I had a really nice look on the eighth but missed that but then the greens were really quick even with the strong breeze.
“Though the golf course is fun and it’s a really good test of golf.”
There was a bizarre incident on the first tee with Patrick Reed introduced to fans in the next group teeing up but it was Bryson DeChambeau rushing-up to the tee to tee off.
DeChambeau was playing in the group ahead of Reed’s but was forced to return to the tee when he could not locate his own opening tee shot, and with Reed’s permission he teed-off ahead of catching-up with his own group.
“It was bizarre as I was teed-up ready to go and just as the starter was introducing me, Bryson came rushing-up asking if I didn’t mind if he could tee-up,” said Reed.
“He apologised saying ‘sorry guys’ that he couldn’t find his first shot, so had to come back and tee-up again.
“It was all good and things like that happen. He did ask me if he’d like to re-introduce me to the crowd (smiling), and I said ‘No, it’s okay. Once is enough’”.
DeChambeau bogeyed the first on route to a two-over 72 while Reed, admitting the tanks were still full after going so close to victory in last week’s Hero Dubai Desert Classic, birdied four of his closing nine holes in a three-under 67.
- Full scoring HERE
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