McDowell battles back in Paris

Victor Dubuisson. Picture © Getty Images

Graeme McDowell needed two late birdies to get back inside the projected cut mark after an unsteady start to his bid for a third successive Alstom Open de France title at Le Golf National.

The world No 48, who has slipped 33 places in the world rankings this year, was three over par  after making four bogeys and a birdie in the first 10 holes of the weather delayed opening round.,

but  birdies at the 15th and 17th left him tied for 45th on one over with one hole to complete when play was suspended for the day.

McDowell was one of 42 players unable to complete their first rounds after two and a half hours were lost due to morning thunderstorms.

The 35-year old lies four shots behind three clubhouse leaders— European Ryder Cup partner Victor Dubuisson, Austrian Bernd Wiesberger and South African Jaco van Zyl. who shot three under 68s.

German Maximilian Kieffer was four under after 14 holes when play was suspended, with Rafa Cabrera-Bello and Andrew Dodt both three under with just one hole to play.

McDowell is aiming to become the first player since Marcel Dallemagne in 1938 to win the French Open three times in succession and the former US Open champion would also become just the sixth player to claim a hat-trick of European Tour titles in the same event.

Michael Hoey was close to the lead for mice of the day after birdies at the third and ninth, bit a  double bogey at the 15th and a bogey at 16th for a 72 left him alongside McDowell and Damien McGrane, who had played just 14 holes.

Darren Clarke (75) and Paul McGinley (76) failed to muster a single birdie between them while Peter Lawrie was seven over with three holes to play.

Dubuisson,  25, reached the turn in level par then producing three birdies on the way home for his 68 as Ryder Cup team-mate and playing partner Martin Kaymer, who wo in 2009, opened with a 69.

What they said

  • Victor Dubuisson: “I had a really unlucky bogey on 14 with three good shots, and then the most difficult holes were coming – 15, 16 and 18.  I managed to stay calm and make a really good birdie on 18.  It could have turned really ‑‑ on this course, it can turn really bad, and what I did today was very good especially with all this pressure. I’m very pleased. I feel the expectation and a little bit of pressure from the crowd, because I especially want to do well for them, more than in other tournaments. This one is like a Major for me.”
  • Bernd Wiesberger: “I played okay.  I was not driving it great early on, and I scrambled around and had a couple of four‑ and five‑footers for par. But the chances I had, I took nicely. I was just those two hiccups on the last, the three‑putt and not getting up and down from beside the green on the ninth. In general, given the windy conditions early on, I’m quite happy with that. I think it's just a great test overall.  From the first hole to the last, you're under pressure and you need to hit really good shots to make birdies.”
  • Jaco Van Zyl: “It’s one of those golf courses where there are a couple of holes you can score on, but you can never really let your guard down. But everything is kind of there. It’s just that one day I’ll be hitting it nicely and the putter is not behaving, and the next day the putter is behaving but I’m not hitting it as well.  I’m just waiting for it all to come back in one piece and then hopefully it will be a good week.”
  • Martin Kaymer: “You can take advantage of the front nine a little bit – you will have some chances because they don't play that long. The 15th to 18th are very challenging holes and I did very well there today.  So that was a huge motivation for the front nine, so my back nine. I’m very pleased with two under. The last few tournaments, I’ve played with Rory (McIlroy) in Wentworth and Ireland, and then the US Open, that was a huge one. Last week I played in my own country and this week played with Victor (Dubuisson), so I feel like there's a lot going on around my groups, but it's nice. You don’t want to play in front of ten people, you want to play in front of hundreds.”