McDow­ell, Na take early lead with 68s at US Open

The Covington News - - SPORTS -

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.”

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