Graeme McDowell plays his third shot on the 18th hole during the first round at the 2013 U.S. Open at Merion Golf Club in Ardmore, Pa. on Friday, June 14, 2013. (Copyright USGA/Steve Gibbons) We probably should have noted the warning signs last Tuesday. Graeme McDowell, one of the hot favourites behind Tiger Woods to win his second US Open this week, hemmed and hawed about the conditions, about possible mud balls and even about being heavily tipped.

In summary, he sounded like a man who was distinctly uncomfortable with the pressure of being the regarded as the man most likely to throw a spanner in the Woods works.

As it turned out, it was the change in the course from last week’s firm running practice rounds to this week’s sticky wicket that clean bowled the 2010 champion as he added a 77 to his opening 76 to miss the cut on 13 over par.

“Pretty far over par,” said McDowell who signed off at the 10th by making his fourth double bogey of the round.  “It’s that hard, it’s that difficult, it’s that long.  

“I’m disappointed, of course.  It’s not the way I wanted to play the last couple of days.  But this place is very hard.”

Darren Clarke on the 15th hole during the first round at the 2013 U.S. Open at Merion Golf Club in Ardmore, Pa. on Friday, June 14, 2013. (Copyright USGA/Michael Cohen)Not even the thought of the upcoming Irish Open or Open Championship could cheer up the Portrush man.

“I’m temporarily dejected,” he said. “You’re trying to prepare yourself as well as you can coming into weeks like this so I’ll shake it off and I’ll get ready for The Open Championship in a few weeks time.  

“That’s my next target.  The Irish Open and the French Open between then.  I’ll be competitively sharp going into Muirfield and I’ll continue to draw on this season.”

Already three over par with five holes of his opening round to complete yesterday morning, McDowell bogeyed the 16th and then double bogeyed the 18th from the middle of the fairway to move one step closer to the airport.

He was still optimistic about his chances of clawing his way back, insisting: “The beauty of the US Open though is that it’s not over.  I can go and shoot 3, 4 under par this afternoon..So all is not lost.”

But it didn’t quite work out that way.

Starting at the bijoux 11th where Bobby Jones closed out his Grand Slam in 1930, McDowell ran up a double bogey six for the second day in a row.

His tournament was all but over, yet while he birdied the 12th, he bogeyed the 15th and then double bogeyed the 17th and 18th to balloon to 12 over par.

He hit back with birdies at the par-five second and fourth but bogeyed the sixth and limped to the finish.

“I struggled the last couple days, but that’s golf and that’s the US Open,” he said. “And this golf course will do that to you, but it will be a short‑term dejection, but we’ll soon check that off and get ready.”

Darren Clarke, meanwhile, had a tough return to US Open action for the first time since 2009.

The 2011 Open champion triple bogeyed the 15th and doubled the last for an opening 80 - his second worst US Open score following his 83 at Pebble Beach in 2000 - and had less than an hour before going back out.

Sadly, he added a second round 75, making four bogeys in his last seven holes, to finish near the back of the field on 15 over par.