DORAL, Fla. -- Graeme McDowell had just knocked in yet another tidy putt and was making the turn in the first round at Doral Golf Resort & Spa on Thursday when he was congratulated on his success on the greens.
"Yeah, now if I can just keep the ball on the planet," he said.
Playing with the two biggest names on the golfing globe, it didn't much matter where the U.S. Open champion was bashing it, given the scoring exhibition McDowell was staging.
Despite a few wayward shots with his 13 other clubs, the Northern Ireland star more than held hs own with Tiger Woods and Phil Mickelson in one of the day's marquee threesomes, dropping putts as though he was a Florida native.
On the very first hole of the day, the par-5 10th, McDowell jarred a 28-footer for a birdie, which was certainly a sight with which Woods has become familiar. Another sight we have seen fairly often -- Woods then missed from 12 feet.
Recall their memorable duel at the Chevron World Challenge last December? McDowell drained long birdie putts on the last hole of regulation and first hole of sudden death to kick the legs out from under Woods, the tournament host. He also one-putted the 71st hole, too.
Paired again with Woods at Doral, he one-putted the first five holes on Thursday, running his streak when paired with Woods to eight in a row.
"Like shelling peas," he cracked between holes.
McDowell looks like some sort of Bermudagrass savant.
"Didn't used to be," he said.
Mickelson's caddie, Jim Mackay, overheard McDowell and smirked.
"Alabama Birmingham," Mackay said, a reference to the southern school where McDowell was one of the top collegians in the nation and surely drained a few miles of putts on Bermuda surfaces.
When plkay was suspended for the day, Mickelson was 2 under while McDowell and Woods were both 1 under. McDowell, Woods and Mickelson are ranked Nos. 4-5-6 in the world.
In stark contrast, Woods again was scraping it around on the greens. He had seven close-range attempts from between 10-15 feet over the first 14 holes and made exactly one of them, a par effort on his second hole.
Mickelson, a former Doral champion, was slightly sharper.
"There were some low scores and we had a fun day," Lefty said. "We didn't play our best but we didn't play terrible to where we shot ourselves in the foot. We are in good position tomorrow to come back out, finish the round strong, and play our second round."
Because of the two-year window of the world rankings, Mickelson can pass Woods this week as long as Woods doesn't finish in the top seve. The last time Mickelson was ranked higher than Woods was in 1997.