Irish round-up Shane Lowry missed his target score for the day but was not unduly concerned with a one-over-par 72 Royal County Down as he began his bid to win a second Irish Open title.
Lowry, coming off his best finish of the season, a tie for sixth at Wentworth last Sunday in the BMW PGA Championship, looked to be threatening the lead on day one of the Dubai Duty Free Irish Open yesterday as he reached one under par with a birdie at the par-three 14th.
Playing with Ernie Els and Francesco Molinari in the afternoon wave of starters and enjoying the better of the conditions, the 2009 champion a 100 kilometres down the east coast at Baltry had opened his account with a birdie at the par-five first but reached halfway on level par following a bogey five at the eighth.
The birdie at 14 moved him three behind leader Pádraig Harrington only for a double-bogey six at the next hole followed by a bogey at the par-four 16th to put him back into blue numbers.
Yet Lowry redeemed himself with a birdie at the 18th and he said: “I felt I really deserved that one on the last, one over par was the worst I could have shot today.
“Level par was the target going out. I knew it would be a bit of a grind, those are days sometimes I enjoy.
“It’s not going to take many under par to win the tournament. I was one under with four to play, double-bogey on 15, missed short putt on 16. I love these conditions. My game is good. I was in control. I struggled to read the greens.”
With Harrington leading the field, the next best Irishmen are Antrim man, Michael Hoey and Royal County Down-based Simon Thornton, both of whom shot level-par rounds of 71.
Ryder Cup-winning captain Paul McGinley joined Lowry on one over with his 72 in the worst of the wind and rain yesterday morning while Waterford’s Kevin Phelan posted a three-over 74.
There will be more of an uphill struggle for Irish invitees Peter Lawrie, Gareth Maybin and Reeve Whitson as well as Damien McGrane.
Lawrie’s bid to regain his Tour card next season hit another obstacle as he carded five-over 76. Maybin shot the same score but things were worse for McGrane with a 79 and Royal County Down’s Whitson, who finished the day alongside Rory McIlroy at nine over.
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