PINEHURST, N.C. (AP) — Graeme McDowell watched countryman and playing partner Rory McIlroy boom shot after shot, attacking the treacherous greens at Pinehurst No. 2 every chance he got.
Was McDowell tempted to try the same?
Not at all.
McDowell hardly dazzled with the way he struck the ball but kept putting it right where he wanted, setting up a 2-under 68 that left him solidly in contention at the U.S. Open on Thursday.
"I spent the last few days just preparing myself mentally for the challenge, really knowing that this golf course wasn't going to give much and it was only going to take," said McDowell, looking for the second Open title of his career after winning at Pebble Beach in 2010.
He stumbled only once with a bogey at the 529-yard fourth, the longest par 4 at Pinehurst. He bounced right back with an eagle at the par-5 fifth, made his lone birdie of the round at the 14th, and put down par on everything else.
McDowell held a share of the lead much of the day, until Martin Kaymer birdied three of the last five holes for a 65.
Still, this was just the sort of round McDowell had in mind when coming up with a game plan.
"It wasn't my best ball-striking display," he said. "You don't have to strike it amazing around here. You just have to position the ball correctly at all times."
The 34-year-old from Northern Ireland played in a group with two other former U.S. Open champions, McIlroy and Webb Simpson.
McIlroy kept hitting it farther than his countryman, which is usually the case. But that wasn't a huge advantage on a course with narrow fairways tinged with brown at the edges, areas that presented all sorts of potential hazards and sloping greens that send most approach shots sliding away from the cup.
Continue reading this story on the...