Shane Lowry’s 72 leaves him with an uphill task in Turkey
Tiger Woods lies one under through 10 after failing to take advantage of conditions
Shane Lowry cuts a frustrated figure in yesterday’s first round of the Turkish Airlines Open. Photograph: Dean Mouhtaropoulos/Getty Images
You don’t win anything in the first round of a golf tournament, especially one disrupted by the weather gods – a three-hour suspension of play resulting in only 15 of the 78 competitors managing to finish their rounds yesterday before darkness fell here in Belek – but Shane Lowry’s post-round demeanour was of a man who feared the horse had already bolted.
The Offalyman, one of those who completed his first round of the Turkish Airlines Open on the Colin Montgomerie-designed Maxx Royal course, signed for a level-par 72 that included an uncustomary three-putt from two feet for a double bogey.
It has left him with an uphill task to contend, on a soft course yielding a plethora of birdies: Paul Casey, the Irish Open champion, Darren Fichardt and Steve Webster had all reached seven-under par at varying points on their incomplete rounds, while Richardo Gonzalez and Thorbjorn Olesen opened with 66s, six under, to establish the mark in the clubhouse.
After a morning when thunderstorms drenched the course, which led to placing being allowed on fairways, players – in the main – took advantage of perfect scoring conditions with little or no wind. Tiger Woods was one of those who didn’t, however. The world number one was one under through 10 holes. “I’m still working on getting a bit of the rust out of my game,” he admitted.
Lowry was the only one of the three Irish players in the field to finish. Pádraig Harrington got off to a hot start with three birdies in his opening five holes but reeled off 11 successive pars to be on three under through 16 holes when the siren sounded to suspend play due to fading light; and Damien McGrane, benefiting from a late spot in the field, was two under through 11 holes.
“It’s a bit frustrating,” admitted Lowry of his failure to take advantage of conditions made for low scoring. “I think I am putting too much pressure on myself, to be honest. I’m thinking too far ahead. I want to contend in tournaments and I am anxious to do that. Maybe too anxious!
“I think that’s where I am going wrong. It’s hard to try to stop that (thinking ahead). When you do, you do it even more . . . it’s going to be a low scoring week and to start off level par is disappointing.
He added: “I’m hoping to be in with a chance on Sunday, definitely trying to secure a top 10. I feel I can shoot 15 under for three rounds and I’ll be alright. But, there again, I’m talking and getting ahead of myself.”
If there was one serious blip to his round, it came on the reachable 570 yards par-five 11th. There, Lowry pulled his tee-shot and was forced to take a penalty drop after finishing up in bushes.
Yet, he seemed to have limited the damage when executing a good recovery back up the fairway and then playing a lovely wedge to two feet.
“I don’t know what happened, I had a brain freeze. I was already thinking of the next tee shot.”
What happened was that he three-putted from two feet for a costly double bogey and, disappointingly, having battled back into red figures, suffered a three-putt bogey on the 18th to leave a sour taste in his mouth.
“That’s the way the last few weeks have been going, playing alright and not getting what I deserve really,” said Lowry, who at least has the knowledge there is no cut and that he has three rounds to make amends.
Perhaps it’s a slow-burner, a bit like the moustache he is growing as part of the Movember fundraising for cancer.
Harrington, for his part, wasn’t too disappointed to hear the siren’s call. “It’s not the worse thing, my round had kind of stalled. I can’t complain about not being more under par but I feel like I’m being left behind a little . . . no wind, soft greens, placing, it’s a combination for low scoring. Someone’s going to shoot the lights out.”
The Dubliner, who needs a top-10 finish to claim a place in next week’s Race to Duabi finale in the desert, started brilliantly with three birdies in his first five holes: he chipped to 12 feet on the first and sank the birdie putt, hit a hybrid approach to the green on the par-five fourth and two-putted for birdie, and then used the hybrid again to good effect on the 224 yards par-three fifth where he hit it to 12 feet for another birdie. After that, though, the birdies dried up. The fresh start may not be a bad thing.
The three players on seven under took full advantage of the conditions: both Casey and Fichardt reached that mark through 14 holes, with Webster firing seven birdies in a bogeyfree 12 holes.
For Casey, who won the Irish Open on another Montgomerie design at Carton House earlier in the season, it was a dream start.
“I do enjoy his courses,” said Casey of the Monty layout. “Maybe it’s the fact that you can be incredibly aggressive, and that does bode well for me.”