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'I didn't play my best golf' - Nervous Shane Lowry playing catch-up in Open title defence


Shane Lowry during Day One of The 149th Open at Royal St George’s Golf Club. Photo: Getty Images

Shane Lowry during Day One of The 149th Open at Royal St George’s Golf Club. Photo: Getty Images

Shane Lowry during Day One of The 149th Open at Royal St George’s Golf Club. Photo: Getty Images

Shane Lowry headed straight for the range after he struggled with his driver and failed to complete a gutsy fightback in the marquee threeball at Sandwich.

The defending champion bogeyed his first two holes and while he did well to get back to level par, as Louis Oosthuizen put on a clinic by firing a six-under 64 to take the lead, he got a bad bounce into a bunker at the last and made bogey to match Jon Rahm’s one-over 71.

It wasn’t a complete disaster for the Offaly man, but after hitting just five of Royal St George’s undulating fairways and putting with little conviction, it was no surprise to see him head for the practice ground afterwards.

“I’d say I played pretty average,” Lowry confessed. “I didn’t play my best golf. But, then again, you’re playing with Louis who’s shooting six-under and playing great. It kind of makes you feel probably a little bit different.

“Disappointed to bogey the last. I think if I had parred the last and shot level par, I would have been quite happy with myself going home this afternoon, but I didn’t. I got an unfortunate bounce and went into the bunker and made bogey. But I battled hard. I was quite proud of myself. On to tomorrow.”

Lowry knows that there’s a long way to go in this Championship, but with the course still receptive and the wind not forecast to be a massive factor in fine weather, he has little room for manoeuvre.

He sprayed his opening tee shot into the heavy rough on the right, and while he gave himself a 10-footer for par, his dribbled effort was a sign of things to come.

He found more rough left at the second and missed from six feet for par to slip to two-over after two, before he was eventually rewarded with a birdie from 12 feet at the par-three sixth.

Out in one-over, he looked frustrated when he tugged his tee shot into sand at the 214-yard 11th, and missed another putt to the left to slip back to two-over par.

But after firing a 135-yard approach to four feet at the 12th to make birdie, he failed to birdie the par-five 14th after taking an iron off the tee, then paid the price for another poor tee shot at the 15th with his fourth bogey of the day.

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A wedge to six feet at the 16th yielded a birdie, but after hitting a sensational hold-up approach to five feet from the rough at the 17th to return to level par, he could not get up and down for par at the last after bunkering his drive.

“I need to hit the ball in play better, especially with my driver,” he said. “I didn’t hit many fairways with my driver. I did hit quite a few three-irons off the tees, and I hit fairways, but you need to drive the ball in play.

“Playing this course out of the rough is not the place to be. Yeah, I’m going to hit a few drives when I finish here and hopefully sort something out for tomorrow.”

Admitting he was nervous on the first tee, where he was hailed as Open champion after a 12-month wait, he said: “It was great. It was a very special day for me. The announcement on the first tee, I’ve been waiting over a year for that, so it’s quite nice.

“It was quite unsettling at the start. I got off to a pretty nervy start. I battled hard for the rest of it.

“It’s so good to have the crowds here, and it’s so good to be playing in the Open Championship like we know. Like the big grandstands and the big crowds and getting clapped on the grandstands and on the tees, that’s pretty cool.”

Lowry matched 2011 champion Darren Clarke, who was pleased with his ball-striking as he made up for three bogeys with birdies at the two par-fives for his 71.

“My ball flight was the best it’s been probably in maybe this past month or so,” he said. “I’ve been fortunate to spend a little bit of time with Pete Cowan on the range, and he put me back on track. So, hopefully, I’ll go out there and do a little bit better tomorrow.”

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