Graeme McDowell kept himself and playing partner Justin Rose amused as he opened with an adventurous three under 69 in the Zurich Classic of New Orleans.

The Ulsterman started on the back nine but didn’t mark a solitary par on his card as he racked up six birdies and three bogeys to turn in 33 before following five straight pars on the front nine by sandwiching bogeys at the sixth and ninth between birdies at the seventh and eighth.

“Interesting day on the links! No pars front 9 to shoot 3 under?” McDowell tweeted. “Never did that before. Overall some decent swings today for -3.”

Rose, who had two birdies and two bogeys in his 72, thought it was worth posting a picture of McDowell’s opening nine on Twitter, adding: “Pretty boring round of golf for me today! Unlike my boy G-Mac #morebirdiesthanbogies.”

McDowell replied: “I kept us all amused today!”

McDowell’s three under effort was good enough to leave him tied for 15th, four behind co-leaders Ken Duke and Cameron Tringale, who shot a pair of 65s to lead by one from Daniel Chopra, Steve Stricker, Ernie Els and Chris Stroud.

Ben Curtis, who won last week’s Valero Texas Open, had five under 67 alongside Rose and McDowell to share seventh with John Rollins and Jason Dufner.

But Masters champion Bubba Watson complained of feeling exhausted as he opened with a tame one under 71 in his first appearance since winning at Augusta National.

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“My body is not where it wants to be,” Watson explained. “I can’t hit shots that I want to hit. I can’t hit it and make putts. I’m struggling out there. Just exhausted. Mentally exhausted.”

Watson, who leads the TOUR in driving distance, said hitting a shot “full bore” right now is draining. He finds himself taking deep breaths trying to summon up some energy, too. Since he’s the defending champion at TPC Louisiana, though, Watson knew he needed to compete.

“I had to be here for that and I’m here but mentally I’m not here,” he said. “I’m so out of it right now. Golf is a hard thing to do right now.”

Watson started on the back Thursday and was 2 over after seven holes. But he managed to play his next nine in 4 under before missing a 4-footer to save par at No. 8. He only found seven fairways but managed to hit all but three greens in regulation.

Watson’s caddy, Ted Scott, gave his boss a pep talk early in the round.

“After a couple holes, he was like, ‘If you miss the cut here you’re still Masters champion. Don’t get down on yourself.’” Watson said. “He said a good week is going to be making the cut, then a great week is going to be anything in the Top 25. So, that’s what we looked at.

“That’s what I kept grinding about and somehow I had a few birdies. I had a little hiccup the 17th hole. All in all, under par is good.”