Graeme McDowell off to a flyer in Qatar

Seven birdies in his opening round on Thursday morning

Graeme McDowell

Image: Steven Paston PA Wire/PA Images

Graeme McDowell is just two strokes off the lead at the Commercial Bank Qatar Masters in Doha this afternoon.

The Antrim native shot an opening round 66 to move a shot within second placed Mikko Korhonen and two shots off leader Bradley Dredge.

Dredge moved through the course with ease this morning, the Welshman enjoying a bogey-free round and picking up eight birdies along the way.

Korhonen enjoyed a similarly flawless round, notching seven birdies on his way around the greens.

Ireland's Paul Dunne is in contention with a bogey on seven the only blemish on his scorecard. The Greystones golfer shot an opening round 67 to sit five under-par and holds a share of sixth.

"I'm very happy with it, there were some incredibly benign conditions for Doha," he said. "Even when it doesn't blow here it typically blows 15km/h. There were great conditions here this morning and it's great to get off to a fast start.

"That really set the tone for the day. I really felt like I gave myself a lot of chances, especially on the front nine. I maybe left a few out there, but it's great to shoot six under-par and still feel like you left some out there. 

"I spent the last seven or eight weeks in Florida where the weather has been perfect. The days of growing up in the wind like I did in Ireland, those days are gone. I'm a bit more of a spoiled child these days... You're gearing your game for a tough weekend and then it's a nice surprise when you get given benign conditions."

McDowell takes part in his first event of the year and yesterday discussed how the birth of his first son and the growth in his family has helped him stabilize his game.