Graeme McDowell is gunning to blast three major disappointments into the past with a US PGA battle charge at Oak Hill.
The world No 8 had nightmares to miss the cut in the Masters and the US Open before fading at the weekend in The Open.
But after carving out a solid 70 in Rochester, he’s determined to lurk on the leaderboard in New York and give himself a potshot at major No 2 on Sunday.
As Shane Lowry hung tough for a 71, McDowell said: “If I had this control of the ball at Muirfield I might have had a chance so I’d love to put myself on the board this week.
“If I can be within four or five of the lead going into Sunday, I’d take that right now.
“I think there are four or five unders to be had out there - if you stay out of the rough.”
McDowell got off to a slow start on Oak Hill’s famed back nine - mixing eight pars with a bogey at the tough, par-three 15th,
He got his round going with a birdie at the par-five fifth and another at the short sixth thanks to a stunning seven iron to 15 feet.
And while he was disappointed to bogey the seventh and par his way home, he was still looking on the bright side as he ended the day tied for 36th.
He said: “I hit about 15 greens and probably made my three worst iron swings of the day coming in, so overall I am really happy with that start.
“You’ll not get this golf course any more straightforward than it was this morning: Barely a draft of wind, receptive greens.
Shane Lowry hit the ball welll but felt that his putting held him back in the first round at Oak Hill. Picture: Eoin Clarke/www.golffile.ie“I’m not going to say it was there for the taking but it was a good score out there.
“I’m moderately satisfied because I hit three bad irons shots coming in that take the edge off being really pleased.
“But I hit a lot of fairways, a lot of greens, which is what you’re supposed to do on this golf course.”
McDowell expects Oak Hill to get a lot tougher as the rough grows over the next three days.
Hoping for more of a US Open test, he said: “This rough is getting nothing but thicker. I know they cut it for the last time yesterday, so it’s going to get thicker and thicker as the week goes on, more premium on fairways.
“Pins will only get tougher so let’s hope we don’t get too much rain. I’d like to see this course firm up just a tad, and just keep everyone honest a little bit. But it’s a good test of golf.”
Lowry was pleased a punch to birdie the 17th from 30 feet and then get up and down from rough short of the 18th for par for a one over 71.
Struggling on the greens, he’s convinced he can contend if he can find a way to regain some confidence with the putter.
After taking 30 putts in a round featuring three birdies and four bogeys, Lowry said: “I’m happy enough, I definitely could have shot a better score today.
“I am playing well enough to contend this week. If I can just get a bit of confidence on the greens
“I feel like my putting let me down, even though I did drain two long putts at the 12th and the 17th
“I’ve no confidence from inside 10 feet, so something I am going to have to cure this afternoon with my caddie.
“I feel like if I keep playing the way I am playing and manage to hole a few putts you never know what could happen this weekend.”