Shane Lowry was the best of the Irish players after the opening day of the FedEx St. Jude Championship in Memphis, the opening playoff event of the FedEx Cup playoffs on the PGA Tour that will determine the FedEx Cup champion and a $18 million prize, although the Offaly man will be left frustrated by his final score of 68 that leaves him six shots behind leaders Si Woo Kim and JJ Spaun.
Lowry had shot off to a blistering start beginning on the 10th hole, he carded two birdies and an eagle on the par-5 16th in his opening seven holes to move to four-under par.
But he found water from the tee on his ninth hole, the 18th, and had to drop his ball way back. It wasn’t as bad as it might have been and Lowry gave just one shot back to make the turn in three-under par.
Another birdie followed on the third hole, but a bad drive on the sixth hole required a reload off the tee meant a costly double bogey and a two-under-par round.
Rory McIlroy, a two-time winner this season and back after a two-week break, stuttered with an opening bogey then added another before he earned a shot back at the seventh hole. McIlroy made the turn in 36, one over par. He then had a mixed back nine, with three birdies and two bogeys, all adding up to a level-par round of 70 that leaves him with plenty of work to do to contend.
It was one shot worse for Séamus Power after a round with two birdies and three bogeys for a 71. He has his work cut out to make the cut but at projected 35 in the FedEx Cup standings, he should be safe to qualify for the next tournament.
Scottie Scheffler, the favourite to win at TPC Southwind bombed out on his first round back nine carding two bogeys and double bogey to finish on 71.
Water on the par-4, 12th for bogey with another at 13 before water again at the par-3, 13th for an ugly double bogey 5, and Scheffler finished on one over par as the leading players shot opening rounds in the low 60s.
Scheffler has been the man out front almost all year, building a large lead with his four wins, including the Masters and was hoping to become the FedEx Cup champion just two years after he was the PGA Tour’s Rookie of the Year.
Open champion Cameron Smith, who declined to say in his post-round interview that he had not signed up with the LIV Tour in a $100 million deal, stayed in contact with an opening 67.
Sahith Theegala continued his good form in recent months with an opening round of 63.