In a way, some of the best wine was left 'til last. The late shift had it toughest of all here at Hoylake as the wind picked up, but – as the grandstands emptied and twilight beckoned – Shane Lowry produced some of the best golf of all.
The 27-year-old Offalyman had made the turn on the receiving end of a good talking to from himself, and it seemed to work the oracle! Playing into the wind on the homeward run, Lowry covered the stretch in 32 strokes, with five birdies, for an opening round 68, four-under-par, in a seven-way share of third.
Of the late starters, only Adam Scott – who also signed for a 68 – managed to play as well. Not surprisingly, Lowry had a look of contentment when the work was done.
“I feel very comfortable, I feel like my golf is where I want it. I feel mentally I am where I want to be. I just have to try and stick my head down the next few days and see what happens.”
A measure of how relaxed Lowry is that on Wednesday evening he took on the role of chef for his circle of family, friends and team. “We had a barbecue outside, not exactly Michelin star.”
Whatever about the cuisine served up on the eve of the championship, Lowry delivered tasty fare on the course. Many of the good things were served on the back nine.
“I hit a bad drive down 10 (into the rough) and I was losing my cool a little bit. I was giving myself a bit of a talking to,” he recalled.
It worked immediately, as he holed a 10-footer for a birdie that kick-started a hat-trick.
On the 11th, he again holed from 10-feet. On the 12th, he hit a big drive and an eight-iron approach to eight feet. Again, the putter was hot.
On the 14th, he again took an aggressive play off the tee – using driver – and would roll in a 30-footer.
He finished the job on the 18th, securing his fifth birdie of the homeward run for a 68.
“I feel very comfortable in these surrounding, which is straight away key. When I get on to the golf course, I see the shots, and that’s a big thing and it is going to make me more comfortable playing here . . . I love playing against the best players and I love playing in big tournaments.”
Of how he has developed in recent seasons, Lowry added:
“There is never a point where you say to yourself ‘I am ready to win’. I think it just happens and you do the things in the past few years or the past couple of months that help me do that . . . I feel I am well able to compete this weekend and I wouldn’t be here if I didn’t think I could.”
In the group in front of Lowry, Greystones amateur Paul Dunne also went about his business with some aplomb.
The 21-year-old, a student at the University of Alabama, earned his spot in the field as medallist at final qualifying in Woburn last month, and produced an opening round of 75.
“A lot of people from my home club were here so I had a lot of support, which was brilliant. So obviously with Shane behind me as well I could here a few nice roars.
“My main goal is to make the cut so I am going to go and see if I can improve and stay around for the weekend.”