Shane Lowry leads the home charge in the Irish Open with superb five-under-par 67 at Carton House
World number two Rory McIlroy now struggling to make the cut after shooting two-over-par 74
Shane Lowry on his way to shooting a 67 at Carton House. Photograph: Cathal Noonan/Inpho
This game can be cruel, or kind. It can give, and take. Yesterday, as the first round of the Irish Open commenced under grey skies, which released periodic outbursts of rain that enabled the Montgomerie Course to ask some serious questions of those with designs on the ultimate prize, the unpredictable nature of the professional circuit was exemplified by the multiplicity of those who finished up at the business end of affairs.
Among them, a Swede who has yet to win on tour! A new first-time father, who hadn’t played competitively for a month! A home bird, who knows every blade of grass! An American seeking to conquer Europe! A revitalised Dane! A club professional! And, if it all made for an eclectic lot, the flipside was evidenced by the struggles of others; most notably that of world number two Rory McIlroy.
It just went to show: on any given day, who can truly tell what will happen?
Oscar Floren – ranked 755th in the world – claimed the first-round lead with an opening six-under-par 66 that gave him a one shot lead over a quintet of players that featured Michael Hoey, Shane Lowry, Peter Uihlein, Joost Luiten and Jean-Baptiste Gonnet on a day when 15,282 spectators, about half the size of the crowd who attended the first round at Royal Portrush a year ago, arrived with sun cream only to require waterproofs and umbrellas.
If the weather proved to be unreliable, at least Lowry – who lives on the estate – proved utterly dependable. A winner of this title as an amateur in 2009, Lowry came in with a weight of expectation and shouldered the burden manfully. As Thomas Bjorn, one of his playing partners and who triumphed when the championship was last staged here in 2006 put it, “(Shane) played brilliant. You can see he believes he can play this golf course”.
Cart before horse
Lowry was not one for putting the cart before horse, after a first round that started with a bogey that proved to be his only dropped shot. It was as if that bogey on the 10th kicked him into focus, and his round subsequently featured no fewer than six birdies including a hat-trick from the 13th.
“We’re only a quarter-way through,” remarked Lowry, who explained: “I was just trying to play my way into it, and not start playing my way out of it. You can easily shoot 75 out there in the blink of an eye by not doing too much wrong.”
Much has changed in the past four years, since he made one of those life-changing impacts in this very tournament. Then, and now? Much has changed. “I went up to Baltray just happy to be there and tried to enjoy every minute of it. I would have been happy going home with four rounds under my belt but, obviously, I came away with a lot more than that.