Sunday 19 November 2017

Shane Lowry and Rory McIlroy in contention as Charlie Hoffman sets blistering pace at Masters

Shane Lowry and Rory McIlroy had solid stars at Augusta
Shane Lowry and Rory McIlroy had solid stars at Augusta
Rory McIlroy reacts to almost making a hole-in-one on the 16th hole in first round play during the 2017 Masters golf tournament at Augusta National Golf Club. Photo: REUTERS/Brian Snyder

Liam Kelly at Augusta

RORY McIlroy and Shane Lowry gave themselves a solid platform for a Masters challenge on day one at Augusta yesterday.

Level par 72 for the two Irish competitors left them seven shots behind first round sensation Charlie Hoffman who shot a superb 65, but they were not complaining.

"I’ve put a lot of hard work in on the putting green with Phil over the last few months and specifically on putts inside ten feet to keep your round going.

"My short game really saved me today, especially on ten, 11, 12 which were huge. I got those three up and down, not that I had much momentum  but at least have something going into that stretch and at least pick up a couple.

"Thankfully I managed to birdie the two par fives and another one coming in and even par was a great score so I’m really happy with that," said McIlroy.

Lowry, playing his third Masters, echoed McIlroy's sentiments.

"f you had given me that on the first tee I would have taken your hand off. It was very tough out there. I played as good as I have played in a long time.

"I am really happy with how I played and while it was disappointing to bogey 15 and 16, I hit good shots on those two holes and got a gust of wind with my lay up on 15 which left me too far back.

"Then I didn’t get the gust on 16 and I was probably two yards from having an eight footer for birdie.

"It was one of those days — it was so tough that you were happy with every par and I am happy I made a few birdies. I am very happy with that.

"I just need to go out tomorrow and keep doing what I am doing. I drove the ball great today and my iron play was really solid.

"My chipping felt really good for the first time in a long time today. I am really happy with that," he said.

Charley Hoffman plays a shot during the first round of the 2017 Masters Tournament at Augusta National Golf Club. Photo: Rob Carr/Getty Images
Charley Hoffman plays a shot during the first round of the 2017 Masters Tournament at Augusta National Golf Club. Photo: Rob Carr/Getty Images

Hoffman's score, which included two bogeys and nine birdies, for a four stroke lead is the largest at the Masters since 1955, when Jack Burke led by the same margin over Julius Boros.

McIlroy, when told about Hoffman's 65, said: "That’s unbelievable. That’s incredible. I thought if anyone broke 70 today that would be an unbelievable score and then to see what he did over the last six or seven holes was incredible golf.

"I’m walking off there after my start ecstatic with a 72 and he is walking off with a 65, but as they say they don’t give green jackets out on Thursdays and there is no winning post there.

"I think I’m in a good position with three rounds to go and we will see how it goes," he said.

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