Lowry and Power happy to hang on to McIlroy's coattails as Southern Hills bares its teeth

Irish duo drew short straw as Oklahoma winds picked up for afternoon groups but both are content to still be within striking distance of the leader
Lowry and Power happy to hang on to McIlroy's coattails as Southern Hills bares its teeth

After you: Tiger Woods of the United States walks from the first tee as Rory McIlroy looks on during the first round of the 2022 PGA Championship at Southern Hills Country Club Pic: Richard Heathcote/Getty Images

After watching Rory McIlroy tear up the golf course in the morning, Irishmen Shane Lowry and Séamus Power were just happy to get off their final green on or around level par in the afternoon on a beaten up Southern Hills.

Lowry made three key putts of 25, 17 and 11 feet on the back nine – the last on No. 17 for birdie – to shoot even-par 70 in the first round of the PGA Championship, leaving him five shots behind McIlroy and tied 28th. Power made clutch par saves on his last two holes at Nos. 8 and 9 to shoot 1-over 71 and sit tied 41st.

Playing with Tiger Woods and Jordan Spieth in front of massive but well-behaved early morning galleries, McIlroy came out blazing by taking aggressive lines off the tee and making full advantage of the wide fairways in Tulsa, riding an early four-birdie run to shoot a 65 to leave him one clear of the American duo of Will Zalatoris and Tom Hoge

The same scoring simply wasn't on the cards for his compatriots. 

“Even though it’s not a great score by any means, level par is pretty good,” said Lowry after wrapping up in the Oklahoma evening light. “That’s the first round in three weeks as well and I was a bit anxious going out there. Even though I practiced well and feel like I’m hitting the ball well and doing everything pretty solid, you’re still a bit anxious about how it’s gonna go. So I’m pretty happy with my score today. Today was a day you could shoot yourself out of it.” 

“It was tough going out there this afternoon,” said Power. “The greens are pretty rundown and it's just getting a little crispy and the breeze is up so it was tough, but overall I can't be too displeased. I'm still right in it.” 

Digging in: Seamus Power made clutch par saves on his last two holes at Nos. 8 and 9 to shoot 1-over 71 and sit tied 41st. Pic: Cliff Hawkins/Getty Images)\
Digging in: Seamus Power made clutch par saves on his last two holes at Nos. 8 and 9 to shoot 1-over 71 and sit tied 41st. Pic: Cliff Hawkins/Getty Images)\

Playing in the later afternoon on greens getting bumpier and the warm winds gusting irregularly, both Lowry and Power never got themselves in red figures but never fell further down than 1-over par all day. Lowry offset three bogeys on 2, 10 and 14 with birdies at 4, 12 and 17. Power had bogeys at 10, 14 and 5 and made birdies at 12 and 15.

“You know, I watched the golf this morning and you know they obviously show all the guys who are making birdies and it looked easy and feel like you’re going out there and you want to shoot a score,” Lowry said. “But then I kinda had a closer look at the scores and it was pretty difficult. It was tough out there. Hot. Windy. The greens are getting bouncy. Obviously if you miss the fairway, it’s very, very tricky. I’m pretty happy with my score.” 

Lowry’s biggest mistake was picking the wrong club from 268 yards on the par-5 13th hole and hitting it into the pond that fronts the green. But he cleane it up with a 17-footer to save par.

“I made a bad decision hitting in the water on the par 5 and made a great save after that,” he said. “I miss-clubbed it. It was a bad strike. It was really borderline if it was going to get front edge and you need to hit the perfect shot. I probably should have done something a little different, but I got away with it.

“I talked about it during the week … you need stuff to happen if you want to do well in these weeks. And that’s what happened to me today. I holed the right putts at the right time – 12, 13 and 17. It’s nice to shoot level par. I’m five behind Rory and Rory made the golf course look easy this morning.” 

Power caught a bad break driving it into a divot on his first hole of the day at No. 10 to make bogey and was playing off his back foot from there on. But in only his second career major start he held it together to remain in the mix.

“I actually played quite nicely it's just tough to make birdies out here especially this afternoon,” Power said. “I had some chances early but had a bit of a bad break on 10. … Then I birdied 12 had a good chance and 13, missed a short one on 14 but then I had chances on 15, 16 and 17 and I didn't quite take advantage. And then at the end there I kind of made a mess of that par-5 (fifth) so that was a bit of a downer. The rest of it was pretty decent on that front nine.” 

Both players tee off opposite each other in the morning, but the forecast calls for even more winds.

“Hopefully the wind stays up for the guys in the afternoon; I know it’s going to be windy tomorrow and going to be difficult and the plan is the same,” Lowry said.

Said Power: “If the conditions match the forecast, it’s going to be quite a bit different. I think it's going to be blowing 20 mph at 7 or 8 o'clock in the morning and then I didn't see it this morning so I don't know exactly how the greens are running.

“I think tomorrow morning with better greens and even with the wind up, I'll be able to take advantage of some of those opportunities."

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