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Dublin: 5°C Thursday 25 February 2021

Good starts for Lowry and McDowell, but nightmare leaves McIlroy with mountain to climb

Brooks Koepka is burning it up at the WGC-St Jude Invitational.

McIlroy: struggled on the par threes.
McIlroy: struggled on the par threes.
Image: Mark Humphrey

SHANE LOWRY AND Graeme McDowell both played their way into contention with strong opening showings at the WGC-St Jude Invitational.

But Rory McIlroy’s hope of returning to world number one all but evaporated with a Thursday horror show in Memphis.

At the top, Brooks Koepka looked to be back to his imperious best as he raced into a two-shot lead with a stunning 62.

Rickie Fowler and Brendon Todd are his nearest rivals on six-under par while Sung Kang is a shot further back on five-under.

Lowry opened his tournament with a two-under par 68, which could have been even better but for a double bogey when he found the water on the par-three 11th.

But he responded with back-to-back birdies on 15 and 16 to stay in touch with the early pacesetters.

McDowell is also on two-under par after he reeled off three straight birdies late in his round, chipping in from 35 feet on the eighth — the penultimate hole of his round.

Meanwhile, McIlroy has a mountain to climb after he struggled to an opening round of three-over par on a day of a low scores elsewhere.

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The par-threes proved to be a particular headache as McIlroy played those four holes in three-over par, with back-to-back bogeys on the fifth and sixth not helping his cause either.

It could have been worse but for a late rally which saw him birdie two of his final three holes to finish on a positive note.

With no 36-hole cut at the WGC events, McIlroy will have three rounds to plot his way back up the leaderboard.

See the latest leaderboard here >

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