Defending Graeme McDowell confessed that he putted like a hacker as he opened with a disappointing, four-over par 76 in the Ballantine's Championship in South Korea.

The Ulserman failed to take advantage of benign early morning conditions and finished the day five shots outside the projected cut mark and 11 strokes behind pace-setters Mark Brown and Gonzalo Fernandez Castaño at Pinx GC on Jeju Island.

Graeme McDowell made an uphappy start to his title defence.He said: "I just didn't play very well. I drove it all over the place and putted like a high handicapper. It was just a bad morning at the office.

"I just didn't feel quite at the races and I have no complaints. The course was there for the taking and in good condition. A score of three or four under was there for the taking but I just wasn't quite on top of my game."

The Ryder Cup star, 29, took 32 putts and hit just six of 14 fairways as he ended the day alongside Clandeboye's Jonny Caldwell (76) in a share of 144th place

"The greens were a little elusive and I didn't really putt too well at all," added McDowell, who played the back nine in three over before mixing two birdies with three bogeys coming home.

"Obviously I am going to need three really good rounds to try and compete on the weekend. I am going to go out all guns blazing tomorrow because I know I can shoot a low one on this course but that wasn't what I had in mind."

Damien McGrane leads the Irish challenge in tied 21st thanks to a bogey free, three-under par 69 with Peter Lawrie and Gareth Maybin a shot back after two-under par 70s.

Maybin was four under par with five holes to play after holing out for an eagle two at the 408-yard 13th but finished with a pair of bogeys.

It was also a frustrating day for Paul McGinley, who continued his erratic start to the season with a one-over par 73.

The three-time Ryder Cup winner was three under for his round after 10 holes but sandwiched a double bogey seven at the 16th between bogeys at the 13th and 18th in a round that featured 32 putts. 

New Zealander Brown and Spaniard Fernandez Castaño fired seven-under par 65s to lead by a stroke from Thongchai Jaidee, RObert-Jan Derksen and Kyung-Nam Kang.

Ernie Els and Henrik Stenson posted four under par 68s with Fred Couples (69) on three-under and Lee Westwood one-under.