Shane Lowry insisted a frank overnight conversation with his long-time coach was key to the tournament’s highest-ranked player shooting a five under par 66 on the opening day of the British Masters at Woburn.
The current World No. 21 didn’t drop a shot to end the day two strokes behind England’s Matthew Fitzpatrick who birdied his closing two holes in a round of 64 and break clear of four players sharing second place on six under par.
Lowry shares sixth place with fellow Irishman Padraig Harrington and the reigning WGC - Bridgestone Invitational champion finds himself dealing with the unfamiliar limelight of event favourite.
However a long phone conversation on the eve of the event with coach, Neil Manchip has Lowry’s head far from any clouds and both feet planted firmly on Terra Firma.
“A good few people, including some friends, have pointed out to me this week already that I’m the bookies favourite and in the past I could have found myself getting caught up by that,” he said.
“But then in speaking with Neil last night he stressed the importance of playing good golf and not be distracted by such talk.
“Neil also pointed out to me that if I was to go out and now shoot a bad score tomorrow not to get down on myself as my main focus is the Race to Dubai.” But while Lowry looked comfortable Harrington revealed after his round that he struggled somewhat dealing with a variance in his set-up that involves changing his hip position at address.
“I was a bit uncomfortable with the new set-up but I worked my way through it and hopefully I can be a lot more comfortable over the next three days,” he said.
However when quizzed why he would change his set-up so late in a season the current World No. 117 and similar 117th placed on the Race To Dubai, not surprisingly insisted it was simply ‘work in progress’.
“There’s always work in progress with me but then I wouldn’t normally introduce something into my game that I was conscious of as this is different in that sense,” he said.
Royal Dublin’s Niall Kearney made the most of his invitation with a two under par 70 and is tied in 27th place with Michael Hoey.
Graeme McDowell clearly enjoys being back ‘home’ in posting a one under par 70 and his ninth sub-par score in as many rounds since teeing-up in last fortnight’s European Open.
“I am happy enough as it was very cold and tricky this morning so overall I was happy to dig out an under par round, and that’s my ninth under par round since I came home,” he said. “It’s the kind of confidence and that little bit of feel good factor that my game needs at present.”
Rookie pro Paul Dunne was asked to attend a first random drugs test after his disappointing round of 71.
“My driving was okay but my iron play was less than average and I just putted badly today,” he said.
“So hopefully this is my poor round for the week.”
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