Sport Golf

Monday 27 January 2020

Lawrie flies high after birdie blitz

Karl T Jones

PETER LAWRIE salved his recent fury and frustration by landing a veritable flock of birdies yesterday in a first-round 64 which sent the Dubliner soaring into the lead at the Sicilian Open.

Lawrie was livid with himself on arrival at the Verdura Golf and Spa Resort this week after stumbling to his fourth missed cut in just six events this season at the King Hassan II Trophy in Morocco.

Yet he certainly got his act together yesterday, posting his best round on Tour since last April's China Open to lead by one from Dane Soren Kjeldsen, Jamie Donaldson of Wales and Argentinian Tano Goya.

As this is the first championship on a track designed by Kingsbarns creator Kyle Phillips, Lawrie also can lay claim to the course record, though that could be under threat if conditions remain as idyllic on Sicily's spectacular south west coast.

Shane Lowry, reunited with his golf clubs at 1.0 yesterday morning after they had been stolen at Naples Airport, celebrated their return with a five-under-par 67 which left Clara's 2009 Irish Open champion tied 10th overnight.

Gareth Maybin (68) and Simon Thornton (69) were also nicely placed. However, it's a measure of the generous course set-up that Gary Murphy, lured out of retirement this week by a sponsor's invite, and Paul McGinley lay just outside the projected cut mark with, among others, John Daly after their one-under-par 71s.

Lawrie, who turned 38 last week, certainly made his fair share of putts yesterday as he landed nine birdies, though his 10-foot par-saver, which literally "fell through the front door" at the tough 18th hole probably was the most important.

This sudden turnabout in form came, Lawrie admitted, after "a right boot somewhere from myself. I got off to a poor start this season and I can't really put a finger on it, to be honest with you.

DEVASTATED

"Last week, I got it to four or maybe five-under in Agadir and then played 12 holes in six-over on Saturday morning. I walked off the golf course devastated, I really did," he went on.

"Then I came here, practised really hard for a couple of days and I'm delighted to have holed a few putts today."

Asked about his approach for the rest of the tournament, he added: "Just keep on plodding away. You can't win a tournament on Thursday, as they always say, but you can lose it. I'm not going to get ahead of myself. "I'm out early tomorrow, which is good for me, I'll try to post a number and let everyone shoot at it tomorrow afternoon."

Lowry made plain his disgust with the individual who made off with his sticks when he tweeted: "I hope whatever KNOB who stole my clubs in Napoli airport shanks every shot for the rest of his life."

Yet this story certainly had an especially happy ending for the 24-year-old as he finished with a hat-trick of birdies on seven, eight and nine for a sweet round of 67 which included an eagle three at 14.

"The only thing that's been missing over the last few weeks has been a fast start," Lowry said. "And I've managed to get off to a good one today.

"So, hopefully, I can build on it from here. I'm in a very confident frame of mind, mainly because I've been playing very well lately. And I think that showed today, because I played some lovely stuff."

Meanwhile, gifted English amateur Charley Hull (16) made a flying start to her first Major, the Kraft-Nabisco Championship at Mission Hills in California.

A birdie on the opening hole banished any butterflies and she went on to shoot a one-under par 71, four shy of Aussie Lindsey Wright's clubhouse lead.

"Yeah, I birdied my first hole of my first ever major and that was my first ever pro tournament, so I was pretty chuffed," said the delighted teenager."

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