Phelan M. Ebenhack McDowell: has won since November 2015.
Mac's Back

McDowell gives himself a shot at Open qualification with fast start at Bay Hill

G-Mac is three shots off first-round leader Rafa Cabrera Bello at the Arnold Palmer Invitational.

GRAEME MCDOWELL CAN see light at the end of the tunnel as he chases his first win in over three years, and a place at this year’s Open in his home town Portrush.

McDowell sits three shots off the lead in a tie for third place after a promising start at the Arnold Palmer Invitational at Bay Hill on Thursday.

Spain’s Rafael Cabrera Bello leads the way on seven-under par, but a 16-foot eagle on the 16th helped McDowell to an opening round 68.

Now ranked 259th in the world, the 2010 US Open champion has work to do if he wants to tee it up at the Open’s historic return to Northern Ireland this summer.

A maximum of three Open qualification places are on offer to those who finish in the top 10 this week, but McDowell is focused on the here and now.

“I’ve been working hard on my game the last couple years, starting to see some light at the end of the tunnel,” he said afterwards.

“It’s a tough old game. These guys are awfully good, these courses are tough, and when you’re a little low on confidence, when you haven’t really seen the things that you expect to see from yourself for a while, it’s tough to get out of your own way.

“But I’m trying and I’m very close.”

Cabrera Bello —  who is chasing his first win on the PGA Tour –  narrowly missed a hole-in-one on the way to his opening 65. 

The 34-year-old carded eight birdies and one bogey, and almost capped a superb performance with an ace at the par-three second, drilling his tee-shot to within a foot of the pin.

He will head into the second round two clear of Keegan Bradley, who shot a flawless five-under-par 67 to take sole occupancy of second place on the leaderboard. 

Patrick Rodgers, Bubba Watson, Phil Mickelson and Billy Horschel are all tied for third alongside McDowell.

Rory McIlroy had an erratic start with an even-par 70, finishing with back-to-back birdies to rescue his opening round.

And it was also an unhappy first round for Australia’s Jason Day, who succumbed to a back injury and withdrew after completing only six holes. 

The 31-year-old teed off on the back nine, but walked off the course after playing his second shot on the 16th.

Day later revealed he had been struggling with a sore back last week and underwent an MRI scan on Monday which indicated a tear in a disc.

“I just wanted to see if I could get out here and my back may have loosened up,” Day said. “But, unfortunately, it didn’t, so I had to pull out.”

– Additional reporting © AFP 2019 

Andy Dunne joins Murray Kinsella and Ryan Bailey to discuss Joe Schmidt’s undroppables and how France might attack Ireland’s predictability in The42 Rugby Weekly.

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