McDowell digs deep in Paris

Graeme McDowell on a mobile call as he heads for the first tee in the Alstom Open de France at Le Golf National. Picture: David Lloyd /

Graeme McDowell might be feeling under pressure to make the Ryder Cup team on merit but if Paul McGinley ever has any doubts about picking the Rathmore man, he only has to look back at the way the defending champion turned what could have been a tournament wrecking run into a one under 70 on the opening day of the Alstom Open de France at Paris National.

The 34-year old was cruising along beautifully at two under par through 12 holes, despite missing several chances, when he was tempted into going for the green from the left rough at the 13th and found the water hazard that protects the green.

Graeme McDowell clenches his fist in satisfaction after a birdie putt fell at the 12th. Picture: David Lloyd /

A double bogey beckoned but McDowell holed a long bomb for bogey and then canned a 15 footer for another bogey at the 14th after a poor tee shot ricocheted off a boy's head further into trouble.

Back to level par heading into the toughest stretch of holes on the course, the 2010 US Open winner needed to finish well and did just that, hitting a seven-iron close at the par-three 16th to set up a two before closing with a brace of solid pars for a one-under 70 that left him tied for 15th.

He might be six strokes behind the American Kevin Stadler, who made seven birdies in an immaculate 64 to lead by one from Marcel Siem and by two from Ryder Cup chasing Scot Stephen Gallacher, but the Ulsterman did not shoot himself out of the event on day one and will have the benefit of early morning conditions on Friday.

"I hit the ball well most of the day," McDowell said. "I left a few on the greens over the first 12 holes and things kind of got a little ugly for a couple of holes.

"I pulled one of those lies on 13 and I would rather it had been one of those really bad lies and it would have made me chip it out. Instead, it was a teaser.

"I was surprised when it didn't fly the hazard and I made a great save there. Then obviously I hit someone on the head at the next, thankfully he was okay.

"It wasn't the best header in the world — it went the opposite direction — so it was a bad break for me but a worse one for him.

"All in all, a solid recovery, a solid start and I'm looking forward to getting back out there in the morning."

I managed to somehow summon up the focus to knock that one in and pull myself back together.
— Graeme McDowell on his crucial bogey save at the 14th

McDowell's par saver at the 14th, where he hit his long range par putt 15 feet past having failed to find the green in three, was a huge bonus.

"My head was spinning pretty good on the par-five when I was standing over that 12-15 footer coming back for bogey," he said when asked where he found the inspiration to hole those back to-back bogey putts. "I don't know. I managed to somehow summon up the focus to knock that one in and pull myself back together.

"I made a few decent swings coming down the stretch and it's a tough finish to this golf course. The 15th, 17th and 18th especially are really tough holes so I am happy to finish with a two and a couple of fours there. 

"So a good day's work. At the 16th my playing partner hit beautiful shots in there and I figured if I bailed out I would look a little silly. It was perfect seven iron for me and I was able to hit a nice draw hold against the wind and it was nice to hole the putt."

Graeme McDowell plays second shot to the last at Le Golf National, Picture: David Lloyd /

Damien McGrane opened with a 71 that will help as he chases cash and a move from 135th in the Race to Dubai into the all-important top-110 who keep their cards.

The same can be said for Peter Lawrie, 172nd in the money list, whose 72 gives him a great chance of making the cut and earning a big cheque.

Gareth Maybin (138th in the Race to Dubai) was five over after just eight holes but played his last seven in three under for a 73.

But it was a tough finish to the day for Michael Hoey and Pádraig Harrington, who played well for most of the day before seeing their rounds unravel on the back nine.

Hoey was inside the top 10 on two under with two to play but bogeyed the 17th and then triple bogeyed the last to finish the day alongside Maybin after a 73.

As for Harrington, who was two under playing the 13th but after laying up with his second, he screwed a poor wedge into the water and did well to hole an eight footer for double bogey.

He then made another double at the 15th and a bogey five at the 17th for a 74 that leaves him struggling to make the cut on three over.

Kevin Phelan, who has secured an invitation for the Scottish Open next week, doubled the 15th and 17th to open with a 76 while Simon Thornton (77) and David Higgins (78) need something sensational on Friday if they are to remain in Paris for all four days.

Ryder Cup skipper McGinley was unable to tee it up because of a shoulder injury and was replaced in the field by Scotland’s Andrew McArthur.

Alstom Open de France

Round one

64 K Stadler (USA), 

65 M Siem (Ger), 

66 S Gallacher (Sco), 

67 J Donaldson (Wal), F Aguilar (Chi), 

68 M Manassero (Ita), V Riu (Fra), R Kakko (Fin), 

69 M Fitzpatrick (Eng), O Fisher (Eng), A Levy (Fra), M Foster (Eng), S Jamieson (Sco), M Warren (Sco), 

70 E Molinari (Ita), R Marguery (Fra), D Horsey (Eng), R Cabrera-Bello (Esp), E Grillo (Arg), F Molinari (Ita), W Ormsby (Aus), K Broberg (Swe), R Sterne (RSA), M Ford (Eng), T Jaidee (Tha), G McDowell (Nir), M Crespi (Ita), B Wiesberger (Aut), L Slattery (Eng), M Baldwin (Eng), 

71 M Nixon (Eng), N Fasth (Swe), A Forsyth (Sco), R Gonzalez (Arg), D McGrane (Irl), E Pepperell (Eng), C Doak (Sco), R Santos (Por), J Campillo (Esp), P Waring (Eng), A Hansen (Den), J Heath (Eng), 

72 A Wall (Eng), A Quiros (Esp), N Colsaerts (Bel), R Fisher (Eng), M Kaymer (Ger), D Huizing (Ned), R Green (Aus), S Walker (Eng), D Howell (Eng), A Gee (Eng), C Lee (Sco), G Havret (Fra), J Knutzon (USA), J Stalter (Fra), P Lawrie (Irl), T Linard (Fra), J Dantorp (Swe), G Porteous (Eng), M Korhonen (Fin), A Kaleka (Fra), J Hansen (Den), S Kjeldsen (Den), B Paolini (USA), M Kieffer (Ger), 

73 A Hartø (Den), D Drysdale (Sco), S Dyson (Eng), P Sjöland (Swe), S Kapur (Ind), G Maybin (Nir), J Luiten (Ned), D Fichardt (RSA), E De La Riva (Esp), C Arendell (USA), A Sullivan (Eng), M Carlsson (Swe), B Koepka (USA), D Lynn (Eng), F Calmels (Fra), J Walters (RSA), F Zanotti (Par), R Karlsson (Swe), G Bourdy (Fra), J Olazábal (Esp), M Hoey (Nir), A Snobeck (Fra), D Bobrowski (Fra), S Webster (Eng), J Brun (am) (Fra), 

74 J Morrison (Eng), J Singh (Ind), S Hansen (Den), J Quesne (Fra), J Lando Casanova (Fra), M Madsen (Den), M Tullo (Chi), S Wakefield (Eng), R Rock (Eng), P Harrington (Irl), J Parry (Eng), G Stal (Fra), R Derksen (Ned), S Kim (Kor), 

75 S Manley (Wal), R Jacquelin (Fra), A Pavan (Ita), T Pieters (Bel), E Goya (Arg), L Bjerregaard (Den), J Gallagher (Sco), O Henningsson (Swe), D Im (USA), T Hatton (Eng), A Otaegui (Esp), C Del Moral (Esp), G Bhullar (Ind), R Ramsay (Sco), J Lima (Por), M Lundberg (Swe), R Bland (Eng), G Storm (Eng), 

76 R Wattel (Fra), L Weber (Fra), A McArthur (Sco), R Davies (Wal), J Doherty (Sco), V Dubuisson (Fra), T Levet (Fra), K Phelan (Irl), G Coetzee (RSA), J Carlsson (Swe), T Björn (Den), 

77 K Aphibarnrat (Tha), N Elvira (Esp), A Cañizares (Esp), S Thornton (Irl), B Chapellan (Fra), 

78 A Saddier (Fra), J Guerrier (Fra), P Dwyer (Eng), T Perrot (am) (Fra), 

79 J Jeong (Kor), J Kruger (RSA), M Lorenzo-Vera (Fra), D Higgins (Irl), T Aiken (RSA), A Grenier (Fra), L Bem (am) (Fra), 

80 E Dubois (Fra), S Khan (Eng), 

81 D Brooks (Eng), 

82 J Hahn (USA), P Gal (Cze), 

** T Lewis (Eng)