Lowry 'chuffed' to put Masters misery behind him and drive into one-stroke lead at Hilton Head
Shane Lowry was "chuffed" to rediscover his driving mojo and race into the overnight lead with a bogey-free 65 at the RBC Heritage in Hilton Head.
Struggling off the tee all year, he missed just one fairway at Harbour Town Golf Links and made six birdies to lead by a shot in the clubhouse from Trey Mullinax, Daniel Berger, Luke List and Ryan Moore.
West Waterford's Seamus Power (32) started and finished with two birdies, carding a 68 to join 2013 winner Graeme McDowell and world number one Dustin Johnson on three-under par on a day when Francesco Molinari showed signs of an Augusta National hangover and posted a 74.
"I'm chuffed because my golf has not been great as of late," said Lowry, who missed his fourth cut of the season at the Masters. "I came here this week without much expectation. I just went out and tried to enjoy myself and played lovely.
"I've been putting a lot of pressure on myself recently. There is a fine line between trying too hard and not trying hard enough, so it's trying to find that line."
The world number 50 took advantage of benign early conditions and birdied the 11th, 12th and 15th to turn in three-under before following birdie fours at the second and fifth with a closing birdie three.
"I've struggled off the tee quite a bit this year, and I managed to find a new driver that I like," Lowry said. "So I hit that pretty good, and when you do that on par-fives, it always gives you a chance."
He's keen to recapture the form that ebbed away after his impressive win in the Abu Dhabi HSBC Championship in his first start of the year and knows he must remain patient at a venue where he opened with a 66 in 2017 but pushed too hard and slipped to tied 44th.
McDowell (39) started with a bogey at the 10th but then birdied his second hole and picked up three more shots with the highlight a 30 footer from just off the green at his 17th.
He regained his PGA Tour card when he ended a three-year winless streak in the Dominican Republic last month and hopes he can now play more free-flowing golf and contend for more wins.
"It's lifted a huge weight off my shoulders," said McDowell. "I've been half my mental self the last two years. I haven't allowed myself the opportunity to go and play free golf. I needed it way too much."
Meanwhile, the R&A announced yesterday that The Open is sold out for the first time. After Tiger Woods's remarkable Masters win, the additional 17,000 tickets released for Royal Portrush were snapped up within 72 hours of going on sale this week.
In amateur golf, Holywood's Tom McKibbin captured the prestigious Peter McEvoy Trophy following a three-way play-off at Copt Heath.
He played his last 10 holes in four-under, closing with a two-under 69 to tie with England's Melun Dhaubhadel and Lisburn's Aaron Marshall on seven-under before chipping in at the second extra hole for a winning birdie three.
In California, Olivia Mehaffey claimed her second win this season when she claimed the prestigious Pac-12 Championship at the first extra hole.
Four behind overnight, the Arizona State University star (21) closed with a one-under 70 at Palos Verdes to tie with Swiss world No 5 Albane Valenzuela on four-under, then made a six-footer to win in sudden-death.
At the Final Stage of the PGA EuroPro Tour Qualifying School, Joe Dillon and Neil O'Briain earned Category 3 cards when they finished in the top 30 at Frilford Heath. Headfort's Dillon shot a four-under 68 to share 14th on five-under with O'Briain tied 30th on one-under. Naas's Conor O'Rourke (70 for tied 39th), PGA Catalunya's Luke Donnelly (75 for tied 49th) and Bushfoot amateur Owen Crooks (76 for tied 77th) earned Category 14 cards.
RBC Heritage, Live, Sky Sports, 8.0pm