The old proverbial saying of having his ball on a string applied to Shane Lowry for much of his opening round of the Dubai Duty Free Irish Open at Mount Juliet; but with one consequential exception: on the Par 5 fifth, the 14th of his round, where a wild tee shot down the right led to a lost ball as started his quest for the title with a two-under-par 70.
On a morning of beautiful sunshine and barely a breath of wind, Australian Lucas Herbert got off to a flying start with a sizzling round of eight-under-par 64 - nine birdies and one bogey - that featured a remarkable finishing sequence of three successive birdies.
For Lowry, a delay on the fifth tee proved costly. Too much chat on the tee box before hitting his drive led to a lack of focus. It was pushed down the right and he hit a provisional ball but more as a precautionary measure as it appeared that the ball-spotters had managed to locate his original ball amidst the trees and tall grasses. Unfortunately for Lowry, the ball they’d found was not his and the three minute search failed to find it.
It all led to a bogey six - he actually hit a fine 6-iron approach with his fourth shot to eight feet but failed to make the par saving putt - and, on a day tailor-made for low scoring, Lowry was left to rue what might have been.
For the most part, with the exception of the Par 5s, which he failed to take advantage of and covered in level par, Lowry - four birdies and two bogeys - played well but failed to convert a number of chances.
“It is what it is. I will move on now and try and shoot a low score tomorrow and get myself into contention for the weekend . . . I lost that ball on the fifth. We were waiting on the tee and having the chat and I lost concentration which I was really disappointed with, because I don’t like doing that and giving away shots. I will move on and try and shoot as low as I can the next three days,” said Lowry.
Pádraig Harrington had entered the tournament with expectations, given how well he had played in the practice rounds. “It didn’t go the way I wanted it. I hit lots of pure shots, hit a few bad shots as well and struggled on the greens. It was not what I expected. I was reining it in Tuesday and Wednesday and sometimes when you have high expectations it can backfire a bit,” said the Dubliner who opened with a 76, four-over, that has left him with a mountain to climb if he is to survive the cut.
Herbert, a 25-year-old Australian ranked 91st in the world, has one win on the European Tour - when he beat Christiann Bezuidenhuit to lift last year’s Dubai Desert Classic - and took a big step in the right direction in his efforts to add to his list of Ws.
“Coming from America, the rough is not as thick as probably we’ve been used to but it is definitely up enough to make you interested. It’s a little bit tight in spots as well where you’re not taking driver, you have to play to some positions. The greens were unbelievable. I can’t remember putting on greens that nice. It was definitely good to get out early and take advantage,” said Herbert.
Early clubhouse scores in Irish Open first round
(Par 72, Irish unless stated)
-8 Lucas Herbert (Aus) 64
-6 Grant Forrest (Sco) 66
-5 Martin Kaymer (Ger) 67, Thomas Detry (Bel) 67, Andy Sullivan (Eng) 67, Nicolas Colsaerts (Bel) 67, Thorbjorn Olesen (Den) 67, Adri Arnaus (Spa) 67
-4 Marcus Kinhult (Swe) 68, Alexander Levy (Fra) 68, Masahiro Kawamura (Jap) 68), Antoine Rozner (Fra) 68, Fabrizio Zanotti (Par) 68
-3 Zander Lombard (RSA) 69, Kurt Kitayama (USA) 69, Maverick Antcliff (Aus) 69, Aaron Rai (Eng) 69, Justin Harding (RSA) 69, Joachim B Hansen (Den) 69, Adrian Otaegui (Esp) 69
-2 Adrien Saddier (Fra) 70, Shane Lowry (Irl) 70, Joakim Lagergren (Swe) 70, Mike Lorenzo-Vera (Fra) 70, Shaun Norris (RSA) 70, James Morrison (Eng) 70
Early Irish clubhouse scores
-2 Shane Lowry 70
+4 Jonathan Caldwell 76, Pádraig Harrington 76
+5 Simon Thornton 77