Graeme McDowell had nothing but good things to say about the Merion course after 18 holes on the Pennsylvania lay-out on Monday.

The 2010 U.S. Open champion isn’t buying into the theory that a lack of length on the course -- it is just 6,996 yards on the scorecard -- will make it a sub-standard U.S. Open host venue.

“This is a great golf course. It doesn’t play like a 7,000-yard course – it plays a lot longer. I see it in three parts. The opening five or six holes are medium tough and get you into the round,” McDowell said.

“The middle six holes are quite scoreable if you can keep the ball in play. And the last six are brutal. The 15th is as hard a tee-shot as you’ll ever see.

“I know the rough does not look like much but it is extremely dense and extremely thick.”

Rory McIlroy will go head to head with Tiger Woods and Adam Scott for the opening two rounds of the U.S. Open, with Padraig Harrington paired with Sergio Garcia and Stewart Cink.

McDowell is out with 2003 winner Jim Furyk and former Masters champion Zach Johnson.

Woods and McIlroy have never been paired together in a major before and McIlroy wrote on Twitter: “Decent group for the first two rounds at Merion I see.”

Harrington was delighted with his top 10 finish at the FedEx St. Jude Classic in Pennsylvania ahead of the U.S. Open. 

Harrington finished seven shots off the lead but was pleased with his week’s work.   “My game is definitely on the up, there’s no doubt about it,” he said.

“I feel like I’m better in control of my game and my swing. The short game’s sharp and so is the putting, which has been my Achilles heel over last year. Since I’ve gone to the belly putter, it has definitely improved.”

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