James Sugrue surges to top five as Shane Lowry 10 off the lead at Irish Open

Cork's James Sugrue is in the top five after carding a round of 67
James Sugrue surges to top five as Shane Lowry 10 off the lead at Irish Open

Shane Lowry on the 18th hole after a disappointing first round at the Irish Open. Picture: INPHO/Tommy Dickson

Irish amateur James Sugrue followed Shane Lowry home at Galgorm Castle to offer a stark contrast in moods after their first rounds at the Dubai Duty Free Irish Open on Thursday.

Open champion Lowry, who won the Irish Open as an amateur at Baltray in 2009, shot a five-over-par 75 in his first competitive start on Irish soil since he lifted the Claret Jug at Royal Portrush in July 2019 while current amateur Sugrue emerged with an opening three-under 67, two shots behind the early clubhouse leaders Dean Burmester of South Africa and England’s Jordan Smith.

Lowry carded three birdies and eight bogeys in his opening round and will have to work hard to move into contention on Friday. He admitted his first objective after a trying first day in difficult wind conditions was to make the halfway cut.

"Pretty bad," Lowry said of his 75. "It was like a comedy of errors out there. Every time I made some really bad decisions, I executed my shots really, really badly and I really struggled on the greens.

"It's not easy to shoot a score like that when you really want to do well, but sure look, it is what it is now and I can't do anything about it.

I have to go out there and fight tomorrow, and try and make the cut and then you never know at the weekend because it's going to be this temperature all weekend.

"This golf course is not easy, I think in single digits will win the tournament. So look, we'll see how it goes.” Lowry, 33, refused to blame his late arrival on Wednesday at the Co. Antrim venue having played his final round at the US Open on Sunday and travelled back to Ireland to play his national open.

"No, I'm not going to stand here and make excuses. I felt great. I felt great yesterday evening, when I played 18 holes and I felt good playing them.

"I had a great sleep last night and I got up this morning ready to go, so I'm not gonna stand there and blame the US Open for my poor performance, it was just kinda more on me.

"Like I said, some really bad decisions out there and a lot of mistakes and that's just really cost me. Like, there wasn't one part of my game that was above average today, which was really disappointing.”

When Sugrue, 24, left Winged Foot on Friday night having missed the halfway cut of his US Open debut, earned through his Amateur Championship victory at Portmarnock in 2019, he did not even know whether he would be playing the Irish Open this week.

James Sugrue of Ireland watches his drive on the 10th tee box during the first round at Galgorm Spa & Golf Resort in Ballymena. Picture: Brendan Moran/Sportsfile
James Sugrue of Ireland watches his drive on the 10th tee box during the first round at Galgorm Spa & Golf Resort in Ballymena. Picture: Brendan Moran/Sportsfile

His invitation from the European Tour came only after what appears to be an intervention by his US Open playing partner Lee Westwood, the Ryder Cup veteran who expressed his surprise in the media that the Corkman was not in the field for Galgorm Castle.

“Yeah, it was a funny one,” Sugrue said following his five-birdie, two-bogey 67, “Last week playing with Lee and I thought he might be playing in this so I said it to him. He obviously wasn’t playing but he went in and did me a bit of a favour with the media by saying it.

“Delighted to be here. A different course to last week but it’s windy out there and hard to trust where it’s blowing because it can swirl around and there’s big trees all around you.

I played lovely. I hit it nice but didn’t hole a whole pile then just started holing a few putts. Hit a lovely shot into 6, a lovely 6-iron into about three or four feet and then it kicked off from there.

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