Graeme McDowell believes mental attitude is key at US Open

Graeme McDowell hits his tee shot on the 13th hole
Graeme McDowell hits his tee shot on the 13th hole

Graeme McDowell believes he has his “head in the right place” after enjoying a positive start at the US Open on Thursday.

McDowell fired an eagle, one birdie and one bogey to shoot an opening 68 at Pinehurst, sitting just two shots off Thursday night’s late leader Martin Kaymer.

Sweden’s Henrik Stenson, who can overtake Adam Scott as world number one by claiming his first major title on Sunday, was among a six-strong group in the clubhouse on one under as the early starters made the most of more receptive greens than had been expected.

And six-time runner-up Phil Mickelson, looking to become only the sixth player to win all four major titles, was another shot back on level par alongside England’s Ian Poulter and Ryder Cup hopeful Joost Luiten.

Sheffield amateur Matt Fitzpatrick briefly held a share of the lead after starting with two birdies in his first three holes, the 19-year-old eventually signing for a 71, one better than playing partner and defending champion Justin Rose. Former champion Rory McIlroy was alongside Fitzpatrick on one over.

McDowell admitted the early starters had enjoyed the luck of the draw, and the decision of tournament officials to water the course after the expected rain failed to materialise.

“I spent the last few days just preparing myself mentally for the challenge, knowing that this golf course wasn’t going to give much and it was only going to take,” said 2010 champion McDowell.

“I really felt like I got my head in the right place the last few days.

“It wasn’t my best ball-striking display this morning, but you don’t have to strike it amazing around here, you just have to position the ball correctly at all times, and with a tiny bit more moisture this morning we got lucky.

“In practice yesterday the golf course seemed to be very firm, kind of a weekend set up. I guess the USGA were really relying on some rain last night, which didn’t come.

“I’m assuming they put some water on this place this morning and we were able to take advantage of that a little bit early on, and actually think about getting at some of those flags.”