Shane Lowry cruised to a three-under 67 then went on the school run after surging into contention at the Honda Classic in breezy West Palm Beach.
Buoyed by his eighth-place finish in The Players, the Open champion overcame some wayward driving with stunning iron play and short game brilliance before heading off to collect his daughter Iris from school.
He was inside the top 10, six strokes behind runaway leader Matt Jones of Australia, who fired a course record-equalling nine-under 61 to lead by three shots from Aaron Wise and Russell Henley as Graeme McDowell got mangled in the Bear Trap and crashed to a nightmare 79.
“Any time you shoot under par on this course, you’re pretty happy,” said the Offaly man, whose Florida base is just five minutes from PGA National. “It’s just so hard, so tricky. There’s a lot of disaster holes. Whatever Matt Jones is doing, I want to see it because 61 out there is incredible. That’s just incredible. But I’m very happy with my 67.”
The three-hole Bear Trap runs from the 15th to the 17th and cost McDowell six shots, but Lowry negotiated it in level, draining a 36-footer for birdie at the 16th before failing to get up and down at the next.
While he found just five fairways, he responded with three birdies in a four-hole stretch around the turn, the pick of them coming at the 471-yard second, where he rifled a 203-yard seven-iron to five feet.
“Obviously had a nice week at The Players last week,” said Lowry, who warmed up under the watchful eye of Pete Cowen. “I felt like I putted well there three out of four days. It’s my long game that I don’t feel overly comfortable with. I missed a few fairways today, but I was missing them in the right spots, and luckily this year there’s not much rough here, and you can kind of get away with that a little bit.
“I’m just going to keep plugging away. I feel like I’ve found something in my putting that I can work on and improve on, so hopefully, I can keep getting better and keep shooting some decent scores.
“I’m heading out to pick my daughter up from school. I’m playing golf this week, and I’m working, but I’ve got my normal weekly routine, as well.”
Pádraig Harrington made four birdies but he found water and double-bogeyed the 193-yard fifth (his 14th) before his fourth bogey of the day at the ninth saw him sign for a two-over 72.
It was even tougher for McDowell, who made two birdies and a double-bogey in his first three holes before his tournament hopes were destroyed in the Bear Trap as he went from sand to water at the 15th and racked up a quadruple-bogey seven, then double-bogeyed the 174-yard 17th after finding water from the tee.
He birdied the 18th to turn in 40 but limped home in 39 for his worst score in 12 appearances at PGA National.
Cormac Sharvin was tied for 60th, six shots behind Frenchman Benjamin Herbert after he bounced back from a double-bogey at the fifth to open with a one-under 70 in the European Tour’s Magical Kenya Open.
Hebert’s seven-under 64 gave him a one-stroke lead over a chasing pack, with Clandeboye’s Jonny Caldwell joint 96th after a 72 as Gavin Moynihan struggled to a six-over 77.
On the Sunshine Tour, Lucan’s Richard O’Donovan shot a rollercoaster, two-over 74 to lie joint 90th in the Gauteng Championship at Ebotse Links near Johannesburg.
Meanwhile, amateur Olivia Mehaffey closed with back-to-back birdies to open with a three-under 69 in the Symetra Tour’s Carlisle Arizona Golf Classic at Longbow Golf Club in Arizona, leaving her four behind.
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