Lowry makes strong start in Portugal
Golf:Shane Lowry made a strong start to the Portugal Masters at Vilamoura today as he posted a four-under-par 67 to leave him two shots off the early clubhouse leaders in the first round.
A double-bogey six on the 14th proved costly the Offalyman, but he bounced back well with birdies on the 16th and 17th to undo the damage. Lowry also had back-to-back birdies on the third and fourth and 12th and 13th holes.
Stephen Gallacher shot a bogey-free 65 in his opening round, four days after the horror of dropping four shots in one hole when still in contention for a second European Tour title.
At six under par the 37-year-old Scot shared the early clubhouse lead with England’s former Ryder Cup player Ross Fisher at Oceanico Victoria.
Gallacher was lying fourth at St Andrews on Sunday when he played the wrong ball on the 16th and incurred a two-stroke penalty.
He still earned over £81,000, but with a par on the hole his cheque would have more than £100,000 bigger.
“There’s not much rough and the greens are unbelievably good,” said Gallacher after collecting three birdies on each half.
“I got off to a good start, which was nice. When the wind picked up it was pretty tough.”
Fisher was part of Europe’s winning side at Celtic Manor two years ago, but has had only one top-five finish since then and is down at 140th in the world.
He birdied three of his first six holes, bogeyed the short 16th, but then picked up four more shots in five holes at the start of the outward half.
“I just feel comfortable here and the game feels good,” he said.
Gallacher’s compatriot George Murray, in need of a big week at 163rd on the money list, was a stroke behind.
Ryder Cup captain Jose Maria Olazabal was paired with two of his Medinah heroes in Martin Kaymer and Francesco Molinari.
None of them really sparkled in the first round, however. Kaymer had a two-under 69, Molinari a 71 and Olazabal a 75 that included hooking into the lake and running up a triple bogey seven on the 18th, his ninth.
Darren Clarke, the possible successor to Olazabal for the 2014 match at Gleneagles, was one over until he holed his eight-iron approach to the ninth for a 71.
Defending champion Tom Lewis, like Murray trying to end a run of eight successive missed cuts, reached four under when he eagled the long sixth from six feet, but bogeyed two of the last three for a 69.
“It was a shame about that, but I remembered the shots I hit last year and it definitely helped,” the 21-year-old commented. “I drove the ball well and gave myself a lot of opportunities.”
Gareth Maybin had five birdies and three bogeys in a two-under 69, while Damien McGrane carded a one-under 70. Peter Lawrie struggled on day one, signing for a two-under 73.
Of the later Irish starters, Pádraig Harrington shot a fine two-under 69 in windier conditions, with Michael Hoey a shot back with a 70.