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McDowell: Rory can still win

ESPN staff
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Rory McIlroy can produce a miraculous recovery and defend his US Open title - despite a nightmare opening round, according to Graeme McDowell.

McIlroy is in danger of missing his fourth cut in five starts at Olympic Club, having opened up with a seven-over 77 on Thursday. He is 11 shots off the pace set by Michael Thompson, who has never won a PGA Tour event.

It was a punishing day for McIlroy as, playing alongside Lee Westwood and Luke Donald - both of whom also struggled - he failed to show the necessary level of control from the tee and with the irons. He had eight bogeys and faces an uphill struggle to make the weekend, let alone get his hands on the trophy come Sunday.

However, 2010 US Open winner McDowell is refusing to rule out his fellow Ulsterman. "Seven over's a big hole for any player," McDowell said. "If anybody can come back from it he can, but this course doesn't really offer up many 64s."

McDowell fared rather better than McIlroy - perhaps unsurprisingly, as he is top of the PGA Tour stats for driving accuracy - to finish day one at one under, and he said after his round that he drew inspiration from Tiger Woods, who also had a 69.

"I saw the way Tiger kind of played this golf course, and he played it very ... I think workmanlike would be the way I would describe his round," McDowell said. "He just did what this golf course asks you to do. You just got to play very disciplined golf and I did that well today.

"I've been hitting the ball pretty well and not scoring well, and today it was a lot more disciplined golf and a lot more focused golf - and probably the best tee to green I've hit it in a few months.

"My caddie said if you can't draw some confidence out of this round today, there's something wrong with you. So I think I know what he was getting at - take the positives and try to feed that back into the game again."

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