Wednesday 17 January 2018

Lowry in frame as hot putter proves key

Shane Lowry
Shane Lowry

William S Callahan

IRELAND'S Shane Lowry and Peter Lawrie kept commentators on their toes at the Scottish Open as they swept into contention with superb first-round 66s at Castle Stuart.

Dubliner Lawrie and Clara man Lowry were locked in a seven-way tie for fifth on six-under, four shy of the stunning course-record 62 posted by Francesco Molinari in benign conditions on the Scottish Highlands coast.

Yesterday's effort was satisfying for Lowry on several counts. It was his lowest round of 2012, he took his fewest putts (27) in more than two months and showed great mettle to recover from a double-bogey seven at the second.

"I opened with a birdie and then made that disastrous double," he explained. "It came out of nowhere. I just snap-hooked a three-wood with my second shot.

"I simply said to myself, 'there's plenty of time to come back'. When I saw Francesco was on 10-under I thought, 'okay, I need to make a few birdies'.

"I played some good golf and holed some nice putts. That was the key today. I holed a lot of eight and 10-footers for birdie. My long game probably has been as good as it ever was over the last few months without getting the scores I deserved," explained Lowry, who nominated a par save at 14 as the most telling moment of his day.

After a wonderful run of five successive birdies through 13, Lowry missed the 14th green from mid-fairway with a wedge in his hand and needed to make "a very difficult up-and-down" for his four. "I played a great shot and holed from eight feet, which kept the momentum going," he said. "Then I birdied the last two, which was good as well."

Lawrie's round was almost the polar opposite. He made a rip-roaring start with a superb eagle three at two before birdying three of the next four holes.

The Castleknock man (38) slipped up at seven but two more birdies at nine and 10 kept him ticking over nicely before he stumbled to a double-bogey seven at 12. Lawrie picked up another couple of shots on the way home.

Contrary to recent trends, Padraig Harrington's long game was hit-and-miss but he scrambled well for a 69. Three-under through the turn, the Dubliner made back-to-back bogeys at two and three before rebounding with birdies at four and five.

Picked

Paul McGinley was the only other Irishman among the 100 players who broke par. He was two-over through five but picked up three birdies for his one-under 71.

Title-holder Luke Donald shot 67, while playing companion Ernie Els was four-under with four holes remaining when he took four strokes to get out of a greenside bunker at the 586-yard sixth on his way to a double-bogey seven.

In the sand just 10 feet from the flag after two, Els found his ball in "a really horrendous lie. After that it was like digging a grave," he said after signing for a 70. "I was slightly embarrassed."

Els also had a couple of sixes on his outward half, making bogey at the par-five 12th and double at 15, though he still turned in one-under before picking up three shots on the spin through four.

Meanwhile, Colm Moriarty's faultless first-round 67 left him tied fifth on four-under at the Credit Suisse Challenge, five behind leader Joachim B Hansen. The Dane described his 62 at Golf Sempachersee as the best round of his life. Stephen Grant opened with 70.

Scottish Open,

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Irish Independent

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