Lowry gets New Year off to flyer in record round
Shane Lowry is dreaming of a Ryder Cup debut under Pádraig Harrington but it was his down-to-earth pre-season preparation that paid off as he blasted a 10-under 62 to lead the Abu Dhabi HSBC Championship.
After taking an enjoyable but industrious winter break, the Clara man equalled Henrik Stenson's 2006 course record and matched the career-low 62 that catapulted him to victory as an amateur in the 2009 Irish Open at Baltray with a stunning start to 2019.
"I had a lovely break at Christmas," said Lowry, who made European Tour history by becoming the first man to shoot 10-under par having hit fewer than five fairways - four.
Declaring himself "chuffed" and "over the moon", the 31-year-old was even more pleased to see his structured winter break pay off.
"I was home for the whole lot of it and I came out here with my family and rented a house in Dubai," he said.
"We've had it since January 3. Myself and Paul Dunne are sharing the house and we're practising together and we've been playing a lot together over at the Els Club in Dubai and we got some great work done.
"I feel good about my game. It's probably the best pre-season I've ever done, and it showed today. I'm just hoping I can keep going. I didn't hit as many fairways as I would have liked, but I was hitting everything close and managed to hole a couple of putts as well."
Lowry could jump from 75th to 40th in the world if he wins for the first time since the 2015 WGC Bridgestone Invitational three-and-a-half years ago.
But while he set a personal best by beating the field by 9.1 shots yesterday, he sounded mentally ready to take the rough with the smooth this year.
"I had a great conversation with my coach (Neil Manchip) last night," Lowry said. "We both agreed that like in this game, you just have to go out, shoot the best score you can, no matter what score you shoot.
"If I go out there and shoot 74 today, I still have to just go and have my dinner this evening."
He leads Spain's Pablo Larrazábal, France's Mike Lorenzo-Vera and South Africans Louis Oosthuizen and Richard Sterne by three shots and while qualifying for Harrington's 2020 Ryder Cup team doesn't start until September, he admitted Whistling Straits is on his mind.
"My main goal for the next 18 months is to be on the Ryder Cup team," said Lowry.
World No 2 Brooks Koepka shot 67 and defending champ Tommy Fleetwood matched Dustin Johnson's 69 as he seeks a third straight win at Abu Dhabi Golf Club. It was a disappointing start to 2019 for Greystones' Dunne, who had a triple-bogey seven at his 14th hole, the fifth, in a one-over 73.
Meanwhile, Seamus Power tees off at PGA Tour's Desert Classic at La Quinta in California where world No 1 Justin Rose will be without caddie Mark Fulcher, who is due to undergo a heart valve replacement today.
Abu Dhabi HSBC Championship
Sky Sports, 7.0am
Sky Sports, 8.0pm