McDowell, Na take early lead with 68s at US Open
PINEHURST, N.C. (AP) — That wasn’t so tough. With former U.S. Open champion Graeme McDowell leading the way, Pinehurst No. 2 gave up more birdies than expected Thursday.
Taking advantage of a thick cloud cover that greeted the morning starters, McDowell shot a 2-under 68 and was tied for the lead with Kevin Na.
Six other players, including 20-year-old Jordan Spieth, opened with 69s on the Donald Ross masterpiece that has undergone a drastic makeover to restore its rustic look, with patches of natural vegetation — better known as weeds — taking the place of thick, lush rough.
Phil Mickelson got off to a strong start as well in his bid for the career Grand Slam, attacking the course with deft iron shots on the way to shooting 70.
McDowell, who won the U.S. Open at Pebble Beach in 2010, was as steady as can be in the sand hills of North Carolina. The Northern Irishman bounced back from his only bogey at No. 4 with an eagle-3 at the par-five fifth hole. He added another birdie at the 14th and the rest of his card was filled in with pars, just the sort of solid, mistake-free golf that is required at a major championship won the last two years with above-par scores.
“You don’t have to strike it amazing around here,” McDowell said. “You just have to position the ball correctly at all times.”