Shane Lowry back in groove as Irish shine on three fronts
Irish players made a statement of intent with impressive opening rounds on three top professional Tours yesterday.
Shane Lowry had good reason to be pleased with his four-under par 68 in the $7 million BMW PGA Championship at Wentworth.
Across the Atlantic, Graeme McDowell also shot four under, but in his case for 66 at the Dean & Deluca Invitational at Colonial CC in Fort Worth Texas.
Not to be outdone, Michael Hoey filed a 68 in round one of the Czech Challenge at Golf & Spa Kuneticka.
Worthy starting bids indeed, but in each case, the challenge now for each of them is to press on and build a solid platform to carry into the weekend.
At Wentworth, Sweden's Johan Carlsson topped the leaderboard with a sizzling six-under par 66 to lead by a shot from Franceso Molinari, Scott Jamieson, and Kiradech Aphibarnrat.
Open champion Henrik Stenson was lurking ominously in a group on four-under which included Lowry (above).
The Offaly native accepted before the tournament began that his scheduling had left him short of competitive rounds, and that when he played, he had not done himself justice.
That changed for the better on the revamped West Course at Wentworth, a venue where Lowry feels at home.
His carded three successive birdies on holes 10 through 12 and he finished in fine style with a superb five-wood approach on the par-five 18th which set up a closing birdie four.
Lowry said the Surrey golfing facility is one of his favourites on Tour.
"It's funny. I haven't felt comfortable all week but I do love this place. I love the course, I love the tournament, I love the area. I love coming back here every year.
"Maybe that puts me in a good frame of mind. Maybe because I didn't feel that comfortable, I focused well on the golf course and managed to shoot a decent score," he told Sky Sports.
Paul Dunne started in late afternoon and finished with a one-under par 71. Padraig Harrington, who has not played since March due to neck surgery followed by recovery time, shot 73, as did Darren Clarke. Former European Tour pro Damien McGrane, the Irish PGA champion, carded 74.
Graeme McDowell, who chose to stay on the PGA Tour this week, justified his decision with his 66, just a shot off the early clubhouse lead set with a 65 by Derek Fathauer.
Spain's Jon Rahm and Scott Brown of the USA joined McDowell on 66. They were all among the morning wave of players who got the best of the conditions, as the wind strengthened in the afternoon. McDowell enjoyed that rarity - an unblemished card of 14 pars and four birdies. Masters champion Sergio Garcia scored 69 (-1).
Hoey, meanwhile, was four shots off the lead held by 64-shooter Oscar Lengden of Sweden in the Czech Republic. Five birdies, an eagle three on the par-five second hole, and three bogeys yielded a good start for the Belfast man.
The other Irish scores in that Challenge Tour event came from Gary Hurley (69), Kevin Phelan and Cormac Sharvin (both 70); Gavin Moynihan (71) and Stephen Grant (78).
BMW PGA Championship
Live, Sky Sports 1, 10.0am
Dean & Deluca Invitational
Live, Sky Sports 4, 9.0pm