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Graeme McDowell ‘gutted’ after new rule costs him dearly on Portrush final hole

Graeme McDowell was left to curse a poor finish and one of golf’s new rules after squandering a promising start to the 148th Open in his home town of Portrush.

McDowell played the first 14 holes in three under par but then three-putted the 15th and 17th and ran up a triple-bogey seven on the 18th after losing his ball following a wayward drive.

The former US Open champion’s ball was found just seconds after his allotted search time had expired, that time having been reduced from five minutes to three minutes in January this year.

“I thought it was a hell of a rule there until about 12 minutes ago,” McDowell said with a wry smile after signing for an opening 73.

“It’s amazing, five minutes feels like a long time when you’re looking for a ball. And three minutes feels like no time at all. We had 30 people over there looking for that thing. Twelve seconds after the three minutes was up we found it.

“Unfortunately it was 10 yards right of where I thought it was. For some reason no-one saw it and the marshals didn’t get an eye on it.

“There’s not a blade of rough on the golf course that looks like the stuff down the right of 18, potentially a little artificially done. But you shouldn’t be over there in the first place. (I’m) gutted obviously. But it is what it is.

“I’ve got to not let this spoil my week, because it could easily spoil my week. I feel like all the air has been let out of the sails plus some. The ship feels like it’s sinking.”

McDowell, who only qualified via a top-10 finish in the Canadian Open last month and said he would not have been able to bear being in Portrush if he was not playing, admitted it had been an emotional day as the Open returned to Northern Ireland for the first time since 1951.

“I did have a tear in the eye and I’m kind of embarrassed to say it,” McDowell said. “It’s just been a great journey. It’s been an amazing journey to get here.

“People have been amazing and the receptions out there were really a lot of fun. And to be honest, as soon as I got off the first, I felt very relaxed.

“But the first tee was definitely a little emotional and a little intimidating. I was happy to get that away.”