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Dublin: 10°C Saturday 17 April 2021

McDowell makes a strong start to the year as he rediscovers his form in Qatar

Paul Dunne is also in contention after an opening round 67.

Image: Steve Paston

GRAEME MCDOWELL SITS two shots off the lead at the Qatar Masters after an opening round 66.

McDowell, who said before the tournament began that he was determined to regain the form that made him a Major winner, was the leader for the early part of the day.

A bogey at the par four sixth added a blemish to his card, but the Northern Irishman was more than satisfied with his 66.

“Yeah, very happy with that,” he said.

“Even though conditions were benign you’ve got to go out there and play the golf and take advantage, and thankfully (I) managed to do that this morning.”

A blemish-free 64 led Bradley Dredge to the top of the leaderboard at the end of the first day’s play, with the Welshman seeking to end a long wait for a European Tour title.

It has been more than a decade since Dredge tasted tournament success, his European Masters triumph of September 2006 becoming a faded memory.

But the form he showed at Doha Golf Club on Thursday to close on eight-under par – one ahead of Mikko Korhonen – hinted at a change in fortunes for the 43-year-old, who finished in a tie for fourth at this event last year.

Dredge began steadily, with just two gains from his first seven holes, before a run of six birdies from the subsequent nine saw him surge to the summit.

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“I understood that scoring was going to be good,” Dredge, who cited the favourable conditions as key, told the European Tour website.

“It was the opportunity to go at more flags and get the ball a bit closer to the hole. “Without the wind, it sort of makes it a lot easier to get the score going and get the putts in and get in with some sort of number.

“I’m delighted with the score. A bit surprised, I thought I was going to hit the ball a bit better off the tee than I did, but I hit a few more fairways. I putted really well.”

Korhonen’s card was also bogey-free as the leading duo staked their claim, though the field is tightly bunched behind them.

McDowell, Kiradech Aphibarnrat and Nathan Kimsey were back in the clubhouse after signing for early 66s, while eight players finished the first round only one stroke further behind.

Whoever prevails, the trophy will change hands as two-time defending champion Branden Grace opted out of playing the event this year.

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Ryan Bailey

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