Lowry: ‘The announcement on the first tee, I’ve been waiting over a year for that’

Defending champion left to rue unlucky bounce at the last as he opens with a 71

Shane Lowry was left to rue a stroke of misfortune after finally getting the defence of his Open title under way at Royal St George's.

More than 700 days after he lifted the Claret Jug at Royal Portrush, Lowry recovered from a shaky start to get back to level par before dropping a shot on the 18th.

The resulting 71 left him seven shots behind playing partner Louis Oosthuizen after the 2010 champion carded a flawless 64 to set the early clubhouse target.

“I’d say I played pretty average,” said Lowry, who was prevented from defending his title last year when the Open was cancelled due to the coronavirus pandemic.

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“I didn’t play my best golf but then again, you’re playing with Louis who’s shooting six under and playing great. It kind of makes you feel a little bit different.

“I’m disappointed to bogey the last. I think if I would have parred the last and shot level par I would have been quite happy with myself going home this afternoon, but I didn’t.

“I got an unfortunate bounce and went into the bunker and made bogey. But I battled hard. I was quite proud of myself.”

Lowry admitted he needed to drive the ball better to have a chance of playing his way back into contention and headed to the practice ground after his round.

But the 34-year-old was still able to enjoy the atmosphere generated by the 32,000 fans allowed on site.

“It was great. It was a very special day for me,” Lowry said. “The announcement on the first tee, I’ve been waiting over a year for that, so it’s quite nice.

“It was quite unsettling at the start. I got off to a pretty nervy start.

“But it’s so good to have the crowds here and it’s so good to be playing in the Open Championship like we know, the big grandstands and the big crowds and getting clapped on the grandstands and on the tees. That’s pretty cool.”