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Graeme McDowell sees ‘level par’ as winning score in U.S. Open

Updated: July 17, 2012 12:51PM

SAN FRANCISCO — Graeme McDowell won the 2010 U.S. Open at Pebble Beach, just down the coast from here, by shooting even par for four days. McDowell believes that number could be a winner again this year.

“Levelish. I don’t see it getting much away from that,’’ McDowell said Friday after shooting a 72 that left him 2 over for the tournament. “It’s up to the USGA, really. If they want 5 over to win it, 10 over to win it, they can hide these pins away to suit that. But I would have to imagine around level par. It’s a firm-but-fair test. You’ve got to hit solid golf shots. I’m hitting plenty of those, and I’ll take my chances from here. I’m in good shape, and I’m happy with my position.’’

Defense rests

When he won the U.S. Open a year ago, Rory McIlroy seemed poised to spring-board into super-stardom. He was young, charming, upbeat — and he had a ton of game.

At 23, the boyish Northern Irishman has plummeted back to earth. A second-round 73 left him 10 over par and unable to defend his title this weekend.

McIlroy admitted his recent struggles have been humbling.

‘‘Yeah, it has been,’’ he said. “You just have to keep working hard. It doesn’t come easy to you all the time..’’

Donald ducks

It was another major disappointment for Luke Donald at the U.S. Open. The former Northwestern star is the No. 1 ranked player in the world, but he hasn’t been able to translate his skills in the majors.

The trend continued when he shot a 2-over 72 in the second round. That left him 11 over and on the wrong side of the cut.

“That’s the one part of my golfing resume that I need to continually address and continually improve,’’ Donald said

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