Graeme McDowell three off Wales Open pace after 67

Graeme McDowell
McDowell described his round as 'a decent day's work'

Defending champion Graeme McDowell fired a four-under-par 67 in the first round of the Wales Open.

He carded an eagle, three birdies and a bogey to lie three shots behind leader Keith Horne at Celtic Manor.

The Northern Irishman's playing partner Peter Hanson is second on six under, with Damien McGrane among those those tied with McDowell on four under.

Darren Clarke finished with two birdies in his 68 while Michael Hoey shot a level-par 71.

Clarke went out in a tidy 34 after picking up two birdies and three dropped shots on his back nine were compensated for by four further birdies.

Madeira Open winner Hoey's round comprised of two birdies, two bogeys and 14 pars.

McDowell recorded a birdie at the 12th - his second hole - but suffered a setback with a bogey five at the 14th.

A mammoth putt from the edge of the green secured an eagle at the 15th and he went on to add birdies at the 6th and 7th.

McDowell described his round as "a decent day's work".

"I drove the ball pretty solidly and produced some decent iron play, but my putter was a little cold at times," commented the US Open champion.

"The golf course is playing pretty tough and you will pay the price if you go off line but I'm pretty happy with how I played.

"Hopefully the greens will firm up over the next couple of days.

"I have some very happy memories of playing at Celtic Manor in 2010 but I want to create some more in 2011.

"I've been working hard on my game in the last few weeks and it's in decent shape now.

"I'm flighting the ball correctly and hitting some quality iron shots."

Shane Lowry shot a 72 after parring his opening 17 holes and then taking a bogey six at the last while Colm Moriarty also carded a 72.