Jimenez holds one-stroke lead over Poulter after round of 63 at Turkish Open
Shane Lowry recovers from poor start to finish seven shots back at Maxx Royal
Shane Lowry: recovered from a ‘comedy of errors’ to shoot five successive birdies and sign for a two-under-par 70. Photograph: Ian Walton/Getty Images
The Mechanic clicked into top gear, the Clotheshorse strutted his stuff and Shane Lowry – forced to demonstrate his resilience – battened down the hatches.
In a first round of the Turkish Airlines Open here on the Maxx Royal course that has trees positioned on a number of fairways, Miguel Angel Jimenez opened with a stunning nine-under-par 63 to claim a one-stroke lead over Ian Poulter; and Lowry recovered from a start he described as “a comedy of errors” to sign for an acceptable 70, two under par.
Lowry wasn’t laughing though after a start that had him playing backwards out of trees on the 11th, his second hole, and left three over par after just four holes. The situation deteriorated on the 17th hole, his eighth, after an approach from the middle of the fairway ploughed into the branches of a eucalyptus tree guarding the green.
The ball was lost and Lowry retraced his steps to replay the approach, his fourth shot. He hit it to eight feet, salvaged a bogey from the unravelling mess and, somehow, recalibrated. From there on, the Offaly man played some wonderful golf, including a run of five birdies in a row, to play his way back into the tournament.
“I was fairly headless around that time,” admitted Lowry of the incident where his ball was lost in the tree’s branches. “I was thinking to myself, ‘it could be a long week’.” It necessitated a series of short talks between player and caddie Dermot Byrne to find some calm in the mayhem.
To his credit, Lowry, who had suffered a poor first round in last week’s HSBC tournament which ended his prospects, rolled up the sleeves.
“What was I? Nine behind [playing partner Jimenez] after eight holes? I showed a lot of character. When I got up and down [from the fairway] for my [bogey] five on 17, it kind of got me going . . . I am right back in it. Okay, I’m seven behind but if I drive it like I did most of today going into the weekend, I will be okay,” said Lowry, who was given a bird’s eye view of Jimenez’s wizardry.
Jimenez (50) wasn’t losing the run of himself after his display of fireworks.
“This doesn’t happen every day,” said Jimenez of his start, hitting a lob wedge approach into the 10th hole for an eagle two. “It’s special [to shoot a 63], because I’ve been struggling the last few months.”
If Jimenez’s on-course struggles seem to be a thing of the past, so too the injury-blighted season of Ian Poulter. The fashion-conscious Englishman was lumbered with shoulder and back problems for the first part of the year which left him “angry” at himself for attempting to play through his injuries.
Poulter, who returned a favoured old putter to his bag this week, had been in danger of slipping out of the world’s top-50.
It was a prospect that scared him, and his decision to change club manufacturers – from Cobra to Titleist – put added pressure on him to deliver. He has.
“They’ve only been in the bag a few weeks, but I’m really happy. I’m right there. So, within a couple of weeks, I feel really good about myself. The injuries? I don’t have any aches or pains. I feel strong and that means I can practise. And when I practise and start holing putts, then I’m going to be full of confidence like I am right now.”
With 50 players dipping under par, the surprise was that only one of the three players in closest pursuit of Rory McIlroy for the European Tour’s order of merit was among them. Marcel Siem opened with a 70 but Jamie Donaldson only managed a level par 72 and Sergio Garcia struggled to a 75.