Sport Golf

Sunday 17 December 2017

Lowry off to solid start amid tough competition

Shane Lowry sizes up a putt on the ninth green at the Waste Management Phoenix Open in Scottsdale, Arizona. Photo: Christian Petersen/Getty Images
Shane Lowry sizes up a putt on the ninth green at the Waste Management Phoenix Open in Scottsdale, Arizona. Photo: Christian Petersen/Getty Images

William S Callahan

Shane Lowry topped and tailed his opening round in the $6.7 million Waste Management Open at TPC Scottsdale with bogeys yesterday, but otherwise it was a solid day's work in a highly competitive and boisterous environment.

Offaly's favourite son carded a 69, two under par, to lie four shots behind clubhouse leader and 2016 tournament winner Hideki Matsuyama.

It could have been better if Lowry had avoided three putting the first hole and the 18th.

Otherwise he could be happy with his performance on the other 16 holes, registering 12 pars and four birdies.

These are, of course, early days in the Clara native's 2017 phase of the wraparound season.

He took a nine-week break before resuming on the PGA Tour at last week's Farmer's Insurance Open, making the cut and going on to finish tied-33.

There is a certain amount of pressure on Lowry to press forward as much as he can before a significant event, the birth of his and wife Wendy's first child, takes place.

The baby is due at the end of this month, and Lowry will take time away from golf, with the intention of returning in March to prepare for the Masters at Augusta (April 6-9).

He and Padraig Harrington are the only Irish players in a field of 156 players headed by Japanese hero Hideki Matsuyama.

Matsuyama has won twice already on Tour in the 2016-17 campaign, and threw down the gauntlet to challengers with a bogey-free 65 (-6).

John Peterson, 27, the 795th player in the world, is playing on a medical exemption and he joined Robert Garrigus and Scott Brown in joint third place, just a shot behind Matsuyama

Harrington missed the cut at last week's Farmers Insurance Open, but had warned his fans not to expect too much as he was suffering from a number of niggling injuries, notably a trapped nerve in his neck.

Harrington took medical advice about the problem and last Sunday had an injection which he hoped would free up the nerve and enable him to perform better at Scottsdale.

The drawback was a lack of practice going into his first round in the later groupings yesterday.

Harrington told his legion of Facebook followers: "In terms of my game I'm unsure what is going to come out in my first round as I haven't had a chance to work on anything since last week.

"However, I'm really looking forward to the week as this is one of the best tournaments of the year - it is a big party that happens to have a golf event going on in the middle of it, and the highlight of the week is the 16th hole."

VICTORY

Meanwhile, Ireland's Brendan McGovern dedicated his Senior Tour Qualifying School Final Stage victory to his uncle after finishing top of the class with a score of 11-under par.

The 51-year-old successfully made his way through Q-School for the second consecutive year, going wire-to-wire with rounds of 66-66-73-68 to finish six strokes ahead of the pack.

"It was a different Brendan McGovern out there today," he said. "Last year, after finishing Q-School, nobody had told me that my uncle had passed away while I had been practising.

"He was buried a year ago today and I have to dedicate this to him. He was my 15th club. He was the one who got me into golf, and that kept me going today."

  • Omega Dubai Desert Classic, Live, Sky Sports 4, 7.30am
  • Waste Management Phoenix Open, Live, Sky Sports 4, 8.0pm

Irish Independent

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