Reuters - Sat, 19 Jun 00:19:00 2010
After Graeme McDowell of Britain rubbed the sleep out of his eyes he went to work on a softer, smoother Pebble Beach layout and emerged as the second-round leader at the US Open.
McDowell took advantage of favourable conditions to shoot a three-under-par 68 for a three-under 139 total and a two-stroke lead over twice champion Ernie Els of South Africa and American Dustin Johnson after the morning wave.
"The alarm went off at 4:20 this morning, so it was definitely a rude awakening," the 30-year-old Northern Irishman said after his meticulous march through the Pacific coast layout on a cool, overcast day.
Relatively gentle breezes greeted the early starters.
"The winds took probably 11, 12 holes before they woke up," said McDowell, who fortunately was alert well before that. "It was nice to play the back nine flat calm."
Following a scrappy start with bogeys after finding bunkers on the 10th and 12th holes, McDowell settled down to business after draining a long putt for birdie on the par-five 14th.
"I played lovely after that, gave myself a ton of chances. Generally played smart, hit fairways and greens, and really tried to keep it below the hole as much as possible," said the European Ryder Cup player. "There definitely are some chances out there, but the second you got out of position this course will beat you up."
A bogey at his last hole, the ninth, came after he put his approach some 60 feet above the hole and he paid the price with his first three-putt of the tournament.
McDowell, whose best finish in a major was a tie for 10th at last year's US PGA Championship, came to Pebble Beach buoyed by a 64-63 finish this month at the Wales Open that brought him his fifth European Tour victory.
"The win has been a huge springboard for me, a springboard of confidence, springboard for a good summer," he said. "I'm trying to use the momentum that I had in Wales. I feel very relaxed and very under control of what I'm doing."
McDowell, whose home course is Royal Portrush, said Pebble and its ocean breezes reminded him of a links style course.
"I'd be lying if I hadn't thought about picking up the trophy on Sunday afternoon," said the man who wore black on Friday. "But I'm trying to be very realistic about it. "I'm not seeing the battle as being with the rest of the field. I'm seeing the battle with myself and the golf course."