McDowell singles out Valderrama for special praise after level-par opener

Fatiha Betscher
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Graeme McDowell (Photo by Mike Ehrmann/Getty Images)

“I would have won more golf tournaments in my career if I could play Valderrama every week”.

Great words from Graham McDowell who revelled early in the sauna-like and windy conditions before the famed Valderrama course bit back on day one of the inaugural LIV Golf Andalucía in Spain.

McDowell, who teed-off from the 12th hole, grabbed four birdies in 13 holes but let slip his hard-earned efforts with three bogeys over his closing five.

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It left him in a share of 15th place, but only four shots from the front with two rounds to play.

The American duo of Dustin Johnson and Jason Kokrak lead the way in the 48-player, $25m event after recording matching four-under 68s, with only 14 players managing to break par on the famed Andalucían course.

Fans flocked to the course affectionately known as ‘Europe’s Augusta’, so much so the range was packed with three hours still to go before the 1.15pm local time shotgun start.

The sight of Spanish dancers delighted everyone on the first tee, and the crowd warmed to some of the world’s best golfers, the music and many off-course activities in temperatures nudging close to 40 degrees Celsius

For McDowell, it was a first Valderrrama showing since 2011 where he finished 54th and last among those who made the halfway cut at the Andalucían Masters, ending that campaign with horror weekend rounds of 81 and 82.

A year earlier, McDowell enjoyed the walk up the last in capturing his third victory in a season capped by glory at the U.S. Open.

“I was three-under early but dropped a couple of shots to finish level and while a disappointing finish, I played really well,” he said. “I did all the hard work when it was windy and then when the wind dropped, I made a couple of bogeys.

“Though that’s Valderrama and you do not have to do a whole lot wrong to make mistakes here.  The course is just a great test of golf and I am really happy with the manner I controlled the golf ball.

“Looking at the board, and with 36-holes to play, I am only four back but then this golf course is going to continue to test your patience, your game plan.

“That’s great for me and while it is a stressful golf course for me, I wish I could play a golf course like this every week.

“I would have probably won more golf tournaments in my career, if every golf course looked like this one”.

McDowell singled out his birdies at the 17th and 18th holes, holing from 10-feet at the former and then, after a cracking drive, he stuck his second to eight feet for birdie at the latter, as the highlights of his opening round.

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