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Lowry looks at home after spirited start

SHANE LOWRY awoke at 5.0 yesterday to the sound and smell of bacon sizzling on a pan. First up each morning in the house Lowry shares with Graeme McDowell and the crew from Horizon Sports Management is chef Byron McIntosh from Florida, who ensures the lads can rely on many of the comforts of home at the US Open.

The 24-year-old from Clara also would have found familiar the early morning weather in Bethesda. As he left the house for the mile-and-a-half journey to the golf course at Congressional and his first fledgling steps in yesterday's opening round of the US Open, Lowry stepped into a cool, overcast morning ... perfect golfing weather.

Okay, Lowry and the other early starters had to endure for a few holes the mild inconvenience of rain ... yet this was the archetypal 'soft morning, thank God' which he might have brought with him from Ireland.

In truth, Lowry's not been in much form for the 'Full Irish' in recent days after being accompanied by something entirely different on the trip to Washington DC on Sunday.

He's been unable to shake off the slight bug which first reared up last Saturday and caused him stomach cramps on the golf course yesterday.

Yet Lowry gave little hint of it as he compiled a spirited and satisfying opening round of one-over-par 72 on his debut in, supposedly, the most intimidating arena in all golf.

It's a measure of the exacting standards Lowry sets himself that he wasn't entirely satisfied with his performance.

"I actually didn't feel I was playing that well but still got it around," he said.

"I managed to keep my momentum up and putted really well. With the exception of one really short putt, everything looked like it was going in or burned the edge," added Lowry. "And it was good to birdie the last. I'm happy enough."

Lowry certainly wasn't as precise off the tee in the early holes yesterday as he had been in practice. Not unnaturally, he looked a little tight, but sinking a hugely significant 25-foot putt for par at the third must have helped settle the nerves.

One impressive feature of his round was his ability to take setbacks in his stride, which can be critical at the US Open. After making bogey out of the left rough at the demanding fourth hole, for example, Lowry rebounded with a lovely birdie at five, where he hit a three-wood into the fairway and whipped a nice nine-iron to 10 feet.

Another dropped shot came out of the blue at the punishing 636-yard ninth hole. After hitting a cracking drive into the heart of the fairway, Lowry pulled his lay-up well to the left, where it landed high on steep banking with trees blocking his path to the green.

He took his medicine, playing out sideways before hitting a wedge to 15 feet of the hole. Unlucky to see his par-saver stop in the jaws on that occasion, Lowry then drained a 19-footer for a superlative bounce-back birdie at the cruel par-three 10th.

Others less dogged might have wilted after bogeys at 14 and 17 on the daunting back nine but Lowry, showing some of that old Baltray spirit which helped carry him to victory as an amateur at the 2009 Irish Open, rounded off a demanding day on a high note.

Eighteen at Congressional is a tough finishing hole, but Lowry was more than equal to its challenge yesterday. Though unlucky when his tee shot took a bad bounce left into the fringe rough, leaving him 188 yards out, he fired off an exquisite seven-iron which pitched 15 yards short and ran down to six feet.

At the finish, Lowry was mistaken by officials for his playing companion Chez Reavie, who shot 70. "A lot of people want to talk to you," he was told, to which the bemused Offalyman replied: "Do they?"

Looking back on his day, Lowry said: "It was fine getting up at five because I'm still a bit jet-lagged. I actually don't feel great and had a few cramps on the way around ... but I'm okay now, not too bad."

With a little more luck on the greens at Congressional, Lowry might be required for a few more media interviews before this US Open ends.

Irish Independent