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McDowell and Fitzpatrick make their mark at US Open

ESPN staff
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Matt Fitzpatrick played with no fear alongside defending US Open champion Justin Rose © Getty Images
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Graeme McDowell declared his intention to capture a second US Open title by taking a share of the early clubhouse lead following a first round of 68 in North Carolina.

McDowell, who lifted the trophy at Pebble Beach in 2010, made a solid start to proceedings at Pinehurst and made an eagle, birdie and solitary bogey in his first visit.

The Northern Irishman hit arguably his shot of the day from the sandy rough at the 18th, landing the ball within 18 foot of the pin before the cruel roll left him at the bottom of the undulated green. He safely negotiated a two-putt for par and a share of the lead with American Kevin Na.

"I wouldn't say I flushed it round there today but you don't have to, you just have to stay in the right places," McDowell told Sky Sports. "I managed to sneak a rare eagle at the 5th. But I won't hit the ball much better than I did today.

"It's going to be a real tough test this week, it's going to be dig, dig, dig. I can't wait for the ball to cheer me up, that's not going to happen. The 18th was the first time I found myself in one of the waste areas today, but got very lucky as I had a clean lie. I hit a three hybrid about as good as I can hit it. Apparently I got a bit unlucky where it stopped, but I'll take it."

Amateur Matt Fitzpatrick showed no sign of nerves stepping out with defending champion Justin Rose and Phil Mickelson. Fitzpatrick won the US Amateur Championship last year and is set to turn professional following the conclusion of his four rounds in North Carolina.

The 19-year-old made a bright start; teeing off at the par-5 608-yard 10th hole, Fitzpatrick finished for an early birdie to move swiftly under-par. He continued to impress and found himself two-under after three when he nearly holed his approach shot at the 12th. At this point, he led the US Open. It nearly got better for Fitzpatrick though as, after another stunning iron shot at 13, he lipped another birdie putt and had to settle for par.

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However, successive bogeys at 14 and 15 unravelled his early good work. Fitzpatrick responded with his third birdie of the day at the second - his 11th - to move him back to two-under before a further two pars looked to have settled him still.

After narrowly missing a birdie putt for the share of the lead, Fitzpatrick was again pegged back to level par with dropped shots at the fifth and sixth.

Parity was restored at the seventh, but Fitzpatrick was forced to call a penalty stroke on himself at the eighth when his ball moved while he addressed it in the rough. He kept composure to hole out and take the one dropped shot before narrowly missing a chance for birdie at his last following a superb 8-iron at the ninth tee. Nevertheless, Fitzpatrick walked off with 71, the same score as Rory McIlroy.

Rose suffered a nightmare start to the defence of his title; level after the first three, a run of four bogeys in six holes saw him four-over at the turn. However, the Brit recovered sternly on his back nine with three birdies in five holes to move back up the leaderboard. A five at the par-4 eighth dropped him back to two-over for the tournament, while Mickelson finished his day at even par.

McIlroy fared slightly less fortunate than playing partner McDowell and sits at one-over after his opening 18 holes, along with Webb Simpson and Boo Weekley. A 20-foot putt for birdie at the last, following a superb drive off the tee, gave the 2011 champion something to smile about on his way into the clubhouse.

That clubhouse provided similar respite for Matt Kuchar. After shooting over the green at the last, Kuchar's ball somehow found its way onto the patio. After a drop into a pre-designated area, Kuchar made up-and-down for par and a 69.

Elsewhere, Brandt Snedeker also carded 69, albeit in erratic fashion. The American made four birdies to finish his front nine at four-under, but began his return to the clubhouse with two bogeys and a double. Two further birdies followed, but a bogey at the par-3 17th meant Snedeker sits one-under after his opening round.

Sergio Garcia's new Spanish-themed World Cup bag did not inspire him to a good start; he sits three-over-par alongside Jason Day, while Lee Westwood endured a torrid start with 75, which sees him drop way down at five-over-par.

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