Graeme McDowell three off the lead at CJ Cup in South Korea
Northern Irishman had up-and-down round on his first PGA Tour start of the season
Chez Reavie of the US hits an approach shot on the eighth hole during the first round of the CJ Cup golf tournament at Nine Bridges golf club in Jeju Island. Photo: Jung Yeon-je/Getty Images
Graeme McDowell got his 2018/19 PGA Tour season off to a solid start in South Korea with an opening round of one under par 71 at the big-money CJ Cup on Jeju Island to leave him three off the lead held by Chez Reavie.
The Northern Irishman is making his first appearance of the new season and managed to join the small cohort of players who shot under par on a windy day at Nine Bridges.
McDowell was at one stage up to three under after four birdies and just a single bogey in his first 14 holes but a bogey, followed by a double bogey, at his 15th and 16th stunted his progress. However, he responded to birdie the Par 5 ninth – his final hole – to sit in a tie for 11th after the first round.
Meanwhile, former Masters champion Danny Willett is just a shot off the lead after he carded five birdies and two bogeys in an opening 69.
Ryder Cup star Ian Poulter was a shot behind Willett on two under, with Le Golf National team-mate Paul Casey alongside McDowell at one under.
Defending champion Justin Thomas struggled to an opening 73 which included two bogeys and a four-putt double bogey on the fourth.
Only 18 players in the 78-strong field broke par in cold, windy conditions, with Tyrrell Hatton’s adventurous level-par 72 featuring a triple bogey, a double bogey, four birdies and an eagle on the par-five ninth, his final hole.
Willett reached a career-high of ninth in the world after claiming his first major title at Augusta National in 2016, but had slumped outside the top 450 earlier this year after suffering numerous injuries and a loss of form.
A missed cut in the French Open was his ninth in 12 events in 2018, but the 31-year-old from Sheffield bounced back to finish sixth in the Irish Open, 19th in the Scottish Open and 24th in the Open Championship.
That result at Carnoustie was his best finish in any major since the 2016 Masters, although he missed the cut three weeks later in the US PGA Championship at Bellerive Country Club.
Collated First Round Scores in the USPGA Tour The CJ Cup at Nine Bridges, Nine Bridges Country Club, Jeju Island, South Korea (USA unless stated, Irish in bold, par 72):
68 Chez Reavie (USA)
69 Danny Willett (Eng), Si Woo Kim (Kor)
70 Nick Watney (USA), Austin Cook (USA), Rod Pampling (Aus), Byeong-Hun An (Kor), Ian Poulter (Eng), Michael Kim (USA), Scott Piercy (USA)
71 Hideki Matsuyama (Jpn), Graeme McDowell (NIrl), Adam Hadwin (Can), Brooks Koepka (USA), Dong-seop null Maeng (Kor), Patton Kizzire (USA), Paul Casey (Eng), J.J. Spaun (USA)
72 Pat Perez (USA), Jason Dufner (USA), Kyle Stanley (USA), Doyeob Mun (Kor), Ryan Palmer (USA), Louis Oosthuizen (Rsa), Charles Howell III (USA), Jamie Lovemark (USA), Joel Dahmen (USA), Tae hee Lee (Kor), Jimmy Walker (USA), Tyrrell Hatton (Eng), Brandt Snedeker (USA), Ryan Moore (USA)
73 Jason Day (Aus), Andrew Putnam (USA), Gary Woodland (USA), Kevin Na (USA), Emiliano Grillo (Arg), J.B. Holmes (USA), Peter Uihlein (USA), Justin Thomas (USA), Ernie Els (Rsa), Ryan Armour (USA), Kevin Tway (USA), Brice Garnett (USA), Rafael Cabrera-Bello (Spa), Sungjae Imn (Kor)
74 Shubhankar Sharma (Ind), Hyung joon null Lee (Kor), Brendan Steele (USA), Cameron Smith (Aus), Alex Noren (Swe), Brian Gay (USA), Billy Horschel (USA)
75 Sang Hyun Park (Kor), Adam Scott (Aus), Sung Kang (Kor), Beau Hossler (USA), Branden Grace (Rsa), Chesson Hadley (USA), Abraham Ancer (Mex), Joaquin Niemann (Chi), Marc Leishman (Aus), Keith Mitchell (USA)
76 Charley Hoffman (USA), Charl Schwartzel (Rsa), Xander Schauffele (USA), Brian Harman (USA), Kevin Chappell (USA), Whee Kim (Kor), Cheng-Tsung Pan (Tai), James Hahn (USA)
77 Brian Stuard (USA), Jason Kokrak (USA), Ted Potter, Jr. (USA), Stewart Cink (USA), Hyun-woo null Ryu (Kor)
78 Kyoung-hoon Lee (Kor)
82 Min Chel Choi (Kor)