Shane Lowry makes excellent start with 68 at Safeway Open
Irish golfer puts new clubs to good use to trail first round leader Russell Knox by five shots
Shane Lowry hits his tee shot on the 11th hole during round one of the Safeway Open at Silverado Resort in Napa, California. Photograph: Jed Jacobsohn/Getty Images
Shane Lowry, with a new armoury of clubs in his bag, produced some of his old form in the first round of the Safeway Open at Silverado in California
The 31-year-old Offalyman, who included the event on his schedule as a precursor to next week’s US Open, opened with a well-crafted four-under-par 68 in the first round of the new PGA Tour season.
Playing alongside Phil Mickelson and course specialist Brendan Steele, a two-time winner of the tournament – Lowry had a solid front nine which featured a bogey on the 13th, where he drove into rough down the right, and a birdie on the Par-5 18th where he rolled in an eight-footer.
However, Lowry reserved his best play for his back nine, where he went bogey-free and claimed four birdies. He got the run going with a birdie when hitting a wedge approach to 12 feet on the third; played an exquisite shot from a fairway bunker to 12 feet on the fourth to claim back-to-back birdies; then hit a wedge to 12 feet on the eighth and finished in style with a six-footer for birdie on the Par 5 ninth.
Séamus Power, after a strong start, eventually signed for a 75 which included a nightmare run of four successive bogeys from the 12th.
Scotland’s Russell Knox, a former Irish Open champion, who is without a top-10 finish on the PGA Tour going back to the Charles Schwab Challenge in May 2019, and down to 208th in the latest world rankings, rekindled some of that old form to claim the first round lead with a bogey-free 63. That featured an eagle and seven birdies, leaving him one shot clear of Australia’s Cameron Percy and Americans Sam Burns and Brendan Steele.
Mickelson, who turned 50 in June and recently won on his Champions Tour debut, found things a little more difficult as he opened with a one-under-par 71.
Knox, 35, started slowly after hitting his first tee shot into the rough, but built steadily throughout the day after his first birdie on the fourth hole.
After play, he said: “I worked as hard as I ever have the last two weeks before this event, so it’s really nice to see something good happen immediately. I definitely feel like my game is heading in the right direction.”
The tournament takes place in northern California’s Napa while much of the US west coast battles wildfires, with players preparing for next week’s US Open at Winged Foot in New York.
Collated first round scores and totals (USA unless stated, par 72):
63 Russell Knox (Sco)
64 Sam Burns, Cameron Percy (Aus), Bol Hoag
65 Brendan Steele, Pat Perez
66 Andy Zhang (Chn), Scott Harrington, Akshay Bhatia, Tom Hoge
67 Brian Stuard, Charley Hoffman, Carlos Ortiz (Mex), Harold Varner III, Joohyung Kim (Kor), Stewart Cink, Chez Reavie, Tim Wilkinson (Nzl), Patrick Rodgers, DJ Trahan
68 Bud Cauley, Adam Schenk, Charl Schwartzel (Rsa), Austin Cook, Mark Hubbard, Branden Grace (Rsa), Keegan Bradley, Wesley Bryan, Shane Lowry (Irl), James Hahn, Martin Laird (Sco), Zac Blair
69 Vincent Whaley, David Hearn (Can), Brandon Hagy, Nelson Lauta Ledesma (Arg), Jamie Lovemark, Wyndham Clark, Jim Knous, Emiliano Grillo (Arg), Talor Gooch, Xinjun Zhang (Chn), Sean O’Hair, Brice Garnett, Lucas Glover, Kevin Chappell, William McGirt, Kristoffer Ventura (Nor), Ricky Barnes, Maverick McNealy, Denny McCarthy, Ben Taylor (Eng), Harry Higgs, Cheng-Tsung Pan (Tai), Jonathan Byrd
70 Andrew Putnam, Hudson Swafford, Sepp Straka (Aut), Si Woo Kim (Kor), Chase Seiffert, Doc Redman, J.J. Spaun, Erik Van Rooyen (Rsa), Kevin Tway, Luke List, Chris Stroud, Jason Dufner, Kyle Stanley, Chesson Hadley, Michael Gligic (Can), JB Holmes, Kiradech Aphibarnrat (Tha), Rob Oppenheim, Jhonattan Vegas (Ven), Cameron Tringale
71 Peter Malnati, Scott Stallings, Sam Ryder, Scott Piercy, Cameron Davis (Aus), Sahith Theegala, Joel Dahmen, Phil Mickelson, Hank Lebioda, Sang-moon Bae (Kor), Ryan Blaum, Isaiah Salinda, Ryan Armour, Martin Trainer, Josh Teater
72 Nick Watney, Matthew NeSmith, Aaron Wise, Peter Uihlein, Will Gordon, John Senden (Aus), Kevin Streelman, Aaron Baddeley (Aus), Sebastian Cappelen (Den), George McNeill, Ted Potter, Jr., Jim Furyk, Sergio Garcia (Spa), Patton Kizzire, Camilo Villegas (Col), Johnson Wagner, Tyler Duncan
73 Roger Sloan (Can), Robby Shelton, Rhein Gibson (Aus), Beau Hossler, Zack Sucher, Alex Cejka (Ger), Hunter Mahan, Grayson Murray, Bill Haas, Brandt Snedeker, Jordan Spieth
74 Scott Brown, Luke Schniederjans, Kelly Kraft, Matt Every, Kyoung-hoon Lee (Kor), Graham DeLaet (Can), Robert Streb, D.A. Points, Kyung Ju Choi (Kor), Rafael Cabrera-Bello (Spa), Dominic Bozzelli, Anirban Lahiri (Ind)
75 Chad Campbell, Henrik Norlander (Swe), Joseph Bramlett, Nate Lashley, Troy Merritt, Seamus Power (Irl)
76 Roberto Castro, Michael Kim
77 Shawn Stefani, Brian Gay, Fabian Gomez (Arg)
78 Luke Donald (Eng), Parker McLachlin