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June 16 2011

6:29 PM

McDowell in hunt

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Defending champion Graeme McDowell opened with a 1-under 71 Thursday.

By Melanie Hauser, PGATOUR.COM

BETHESDA, Md. -- New chapter. New verse.

Graeme McDowell wanted to put the 2010 U.S. Open behind him and he did. Woke up Thursday morning ready to go. Ready to be just one of the guys chasing the trophy at Congressional.

"I feel like I've spent the last three months talking about Pebble and defending my Open title, and so somehow coming here this week, I really felt that I had already sort of did all the talking and I was ready to move forward,'' McDowell said.

"I felt really, really good this morning. I felt normal. It felt like a regular Major Championship. It didn't feel like I was defending anything. And I just went out there. I set myself some challenges this morning to go out and try to think well, try to go through my processes correctly, through my routines, and just be patient and enjoy the round. And I really accomplished those things."

He finished the day at 1-under-par 71 -- two shots off the mid-day lead -- and with a first on the golf course.

He and Louis Oosthuizen both laid up off the tee at the ninth hole and when they walked up, their golf balls were touching.

"We laid them up from about 220 yards and the two balls were touching in the fairway, which I've never seen on the golf course before,'' McDowell said. "It was pretty incredible. It was a very unusual circumstance. Louis had to go first, and thankful he didn't remove a huge piece of turf, I didn't know what I was going to do to recreate my lie if he had taken a huge divot. He picked it off the turf quite cleanly and I was thankful for that."

He said, although the grounds crew is doing what they can with the greens -- they had a wet spring -- they are still having a few problems.

"Yeah, they're brown in places,'' he said. "They used the front pin on 4, which we looked at yesterday in practice and that was a particularly brown and beaten up area of the green. And they did the same on 12. They used the very front portion there, probably before they lose them, you know. Of course they've taken this golf course ‑‑ I know they've had a wet spring here.  They've obviously taken this golf course to the edge to try to dry it as much as they can. There are certain areas of the greens that you can see are under stress, they're very stressed.  Parts of the greens were firm.

"They're doing a job at the minute. It will be interesting to see if this wind continues to dry them out. You can hear the SubAir working on some of the greens and the SubAir not working on other greens. They've obviously got a bit of an imbalance out there, as far as how much moisture are on certain parts of the greens.

"At the moment, they're doing a good job."

And, just in case you're wondering, G-Mac didn't give the U.S. Open trophy a kiss when he gave it back.

"I didn't,'' he said, "I'm not really that sentimental.

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