Lowry makes sparkling start in Inverness

Opening 66 leaves Irishman two off the pace at Scottish Open

Ireland’s Shane Lowry  hits his second shot to  the seventh hole during the first round of the  Scottish Open at Castle Stuart Golf Links  in Inverness, Scotland. (Photograph: Andrew Redington/Getty Images

Ireland’s Shane Lowry hits his second shot to the seventh hole during the first round of the Scottish Open at Castle Stuart Golf Links in Inverness, Scotland. (Photograph: Andrew Redington/Getty Images

Thu, Jul 11, 2013, 15:25

A run of six birdies in nine holes left Shane Lowry just two strokes off the early clubhouse lead at the Scottish Open in Inverness this morning.

The Offaly golfer started with a bogey at the 10th hole at Castle Stuart, but made birdie on the 12th before hitting a purple patch from the 16th hole, culminating in four birdies in five holes from the second hole after he made the turn.

The 26-year-old made par on the final three holes of his round to card a 66 and join a group of five players on 66, including Phil Mickelson.

England’s John Parry is in the clubhouse lead after a bogey-free eight-under-par 64, with compatriot Simon Khan a shot behind after he posted a 65 that included an eagle at the par-five 18th.

Mickelson got off to a poor start, three-putting his opening hole and exclaiming: “What in the world was that?” after a badly mis-hit tee-shot on the next.

But the four-time Major winner saved par there and hit back with an eagle on the next on his way to a 66.

“It was a good start,” said Mickelson, who missed the cut in the Greenbrier Classic last week on his first appearance since a record sixth runners-up finish in the US Open last month.

“We had perfect conditions the first 14 or 15 holes and there are opportunities on this course to make birdies and eagles. It’s an above-average round but there were opportunities to pick up three or four shots that I let go so I have to get a little sharper.

“There was a good chance to go low but I’m pleased to get off to a good start because I’ve got off to poor starts the last two years and been struggling to get into contention.”

Starting from the 10th, Mickelson was fortunate to see his drive just clear a fairway bunker, but the ball shot forward into the light rough, from where he was unable to get any spin on his approach.

The ball therefore rolled off down a slope on the undulating green and three putts from 40 feet resulted in a bogey five on one of the easiest holes on the course.

The par-three 11th is ranked even easier than the 10th but Mickelson was disgusted with his tee shot which finished in a bunker short and right of the green, but the 43-year-old did at least produce a typically superb recovery to three feet to save par.

And when he holed from 15 feet for an eagle on the par-five 12th, a typical Mickelson round full of thrills and spills was well under way.

Birdies at the 14th and 16th were followed by a bogey on the 17th, but another birdie on the par-five 18th – playing much shorter than its 607 yards due to hard, dry conditions underfoot – took Mickelson to the turn in 33.

Three more birdies followed on the front nine – he had eagle putts on the third and sixth – as the players arguably vindicated Graeme McDowell’s controversial comments that the course was not “strong enough” to host an event the week before the British Open Championship.

“It’s ideal preparation for next week because I can play all the shots I need for Muirfield but it does not beat you up and punish you like we will be punished next week,” Mickelson added.