Saturday 10 December 2016

Shane Lowry shares lead at Honda Classic, while McIlroy and Harrington endure tough front nine

Phil Casey

Published 25/02/2016 | 18:20

Shane Lowry
Shane Lowry

A spectacular finish from Ireland's Shane Lowry was matched by an equally brilliant start from Sergio Garcia on day one of the Honda Classic at PGA National.

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Lowry was level par for the day before holing from 18 feet for birdie on the 17th and then just four feet for eagle on the par-five 18th after a stunning approach over the water.

That gave the WGC-Bridgestone Invitational winner a three-under-par 67 and a share of the clubhouse lead with Sweden's David Lingmerth and American George McNeill, with Garcia four under after an eventful 10 holes of his round. Compatriot Rory McIlroy, who won here in 2012 to become world number one for the first time, was five shots off the lead after three bogeys and two birdies on the front nine, with playing partner and defending champion Padraig Harrington on the same score.

Sergio Garcia holed his approach to the par-four second from 148 yards for an eagle and also birdied the third, before dropping his first shot of the day on the sixth - although that was the least of his worries.

After pulling his drive into a lake the Spaniard elected to take off his shoes and socks and splash out from the edge of the water, but could understandably be seen anxiously looking over his shoulder for signs of any alligators nearby.

The world number 19 emerged unscathed and produced the perfect response with birdies on the seventh and eighth to move to the top of the leaderboard, with playing partner Rickie Fowler joining Lowry, Lingmerth and McNeill on three under.

Speaking about his approach to the 18th, Lowry told PGA Tour Radio: "I hit a great drive down there and had 215 (yards) to the front, 243 to the flag and the wind was howling out of the left. It was just a hard three iron and try to not let it go right.

"I was just trying to get it up somewhere on the left side of the green and thankfully it came off straight at the flag and released down to about three feet. It was a nice way to finish.

"I was just happy to shoot under par out there, it's so tough. It's very tough mentally, every shot requires a good shot, you don't get away with any bad shots out there. I am very happy with where I am. I've got a long way to go so hopefully I can get a good night's sleep tonight and get out there tomorrow afternoon and do something."

Asked if he was playing at the highest level of his career, the three-time European Tour winner added: "Definitely. I feel like I am good enough to compete week in, week out.

"I've done okay the start of the year, I'm pretty happy with my first three tournaments and obviously very happy with my round today and looking forward not only to the weekend, but the whole season.

"I'm playing over here a little bit more and going back to Europe and playing. I have a very exciting schedule this year and I'm looking forward to a lot of things."

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