Lowry scrambles into contention
Shane Lowry proved that it's often a case of horses for courses when he opened with an impressive 69 in the weather-affected Andalucía Valderrama Masters.
Morning rain and lightning delayed the start by two hours, but the Offaly man (31) produced his own flashes of brilliance as he cancelled out three bogeys with five sparkling birdies on a difficult, stop-start day.
Keen to take his season from a canter into a gallop, his two-under effort left him tied for seventh, just three strokes behind England's Ashley Chesters, who finished with two birdies for his five-under 66.
"It's one of the toughest golf courses we play, so I am very happy with 69," Lowry told Meridian Media after covering his homeward nine in two-under 33.
"Any time you shoot anything in the sixties around here is a good day, especially a day when there are interruptions, and you can go back out and feel a bit off. I felt good out there today."
While Pádraig Harrington (eight holes) and Gavin Moynihan (three) were on level par and among the 60 players who must return to finish their opening rounds this morning, Lowry was in the thick of the action from the start.
Starting on the back nine, he saw birdies at the 12th and 13th cancelled out by bogeys at the 15th and 16th but remained in the hunt as his short game clicked into top gear.
After getting back into the red with a birdie at the second before another weather delay stopped his momentum, he was pleased to hit a wedge close and birdie the fifth on resumption of play and then follow a bogey the short sixth, where he was plugged in a greenside bunker, with another fine birdie at the eighth.
"My scrambling had to be good, and it was," added Lowry, who missed six greens in a row in the middle of his round but dug deep to post a good score.
"I did make a couple of bogeys, but I chipped well today - probably the best I've chipped it this year to some of the most difficult greens we've faced in a while.
"This is the last week of the regular tour season, and I'm quite a bit down the Order of Merit (he's 63rd). I'd like to move up, and that's one of the reasons I'm here. I just love the place.
"Last week (in the British Masters)I didn't really get anything going and did well to make the cut and finish middle of the pack.
"But I am definitely coming here this week to try and contend and compete. It's going to be a long week with storms forecast, but I have to get out there when I get the chance and hit some good shots."
Chesters led by a shot from Gregory Bourdy, who needs a strong finish this week to break into the top 116 in the Race to Dubai who keep their cards.
But defending champion Sergio Garcia is lurking just two shots off the pace after he began his bid for a hat-trick of wins at Valderrama with a three-under 68.
On the PGA Tour, Graeme McDowell was just three shots behind Chez Reavie heading into this morning's second round of the CJ Cup at Nine Bridges after opening with a one-under 71 on Jeju Island in Korea.
But his former Walker Cup partner Michael Hoey went one better in the Challenge Tour's Foshan Open in China - the penultimate event before the top 15 money winners who earn European Tour cards are decided at the Grand Final.
After going out in two-over at Shishan Town Golf Club, Hoey came home in a blemish-free 32 to finish the day tied for 42nd.
- The CJ Cup, Live, Sky Sports, 3.0am
- Valderrama Masters, Live, Sky Sports, 11.0am