McDowell and Lowry struggle at World Cup
Irish players fall off the pace after tough first round at Royal Melbourne
Graeme McDowell chips out of a greenside bunker on the 18th hole at Royal Melbourne, where he made a double bogey to finish with a one-over par 72 in the opening round of the World Cup. Photograph: Michael Dodge/Getty Images
Ireland’s Graeme McDowell and Shane Lowry made inauspicious starts to their World Cup campaigns this morning at the American Kevin Streelman and Thomas Bjorn of Denmark set the pace on five-under par 66, while the the headline acts toiled at Royal Melbourne.
As Streelman and Bjorn shared the lead, former major winner McDowell was among the pre-tournament favourites to struggle and came to grief at the par-four sixth with bunker trouble. McDowell blasted his drive into a cavernous sand-trap, then pushed his recovery into another greenside bunker where he was unable to take a full swing.
McDowell could not extricate himself with his third shot and ended up with a double-bogey six. He did enjoy one of the shots of the day, holing a long-range chip for an eagle on the par-four ninth, but stumbled with another double-bogey at the last to finish the day on one-over.
That was three shots better than his team-mate Lowry, who found himself in all sorts of trouble on the demanding layout.
Ireland’s combined score of five over leaves them well down the pecking orderd, in 16th place overall.
Five birdies in six holes
Streelman, a late choice to represent the defending champion United States team, had torn up Royal Melbourne’s back nine with five birdies in six holes but dropped shots on the tricky 16th and 18th to card a 66 and join Bjorn on five-under. The pair finished a stroke ahead of Welshman Stuart Manley, South Korea’s KJ Choi and Scotland’s Martin Laird.
“I was very pleased with that start,” Streelman said after upstaging world number seven compatriot Matt Kuchar (71), who won the last World Cup for the US with Gary Woodland in 2011 when it was purely a team event.
“It’s just an incredible golf course, I love it . . . I just had a lot of fun there to be honest.”
The tournament’s format has been changed from being solely a team event to primarily an individual one with a team component. Sixty players are competing for individual honours while 26 two-player teams are competing for the team prize. Having given themselves every chance of winning the individual trophy, Streelman and European Tour journeyman Bjorn also put their nations in the box seat for team honours.
Streelman and Kuchar’s combined score of five-under left the United States level with Denmark’s Bjorn and Thorbjorn Olesen (71), three strokes ahead of Portugal’s Jose-Filipa Lima (71) and Ricardo Santos (69).
Along with fluky gusts of wind, the flint-hard greens at the famed sandbelt course conspired to leave most of the favourites grinding through bogey-strewn back nines, but only one disastrous hole was needed to leave local hero Adam Scott all but out of contention. The world number two had grafted patiently to one-under at the turn but racked up a quintuple-bogey nine at the par-four 12th after putting two tee-shots into a tangle of scrub and losing his first ball.
The 33-year-old put his third tee-shot into light rough before over-cooking his approach and ended up missing a 12-foot putt for eight to post his worst single-hole score in a PGA Tour event for six years. Scott never recovered, finishing four-over, but there was some cheer for local fans as his compatriot Jason Day shot a solid 68 to be two off the pace, alone on three-under.
Day, grieving the loss of eight relatives in the Philippines who were killed in Typhoon Haiyan, rolled in five birdies and two bogeys in his first round in five weeks.