Shane Lowry: 'I played pretty average, I didn't play my best golf'

Shane Lowry and Darren Clarke posted one-over 71s while Padraig Harrington hit a 72 on the opening day of The Open.

Shane Lowry shot a 71 today.
Shane Lowry shot a 71 today.
Image: PA

Updated Jul 15th 2021, 5:11 PM

SHANE LOWRY, THE Offaly golfer who is defending his Open championship title this week, expressed his pride at being able to fight back on a tricky day at Royal St George’s.

Lowry delivered four birdies and five bogeys to post an opening round of 71, leaving him one-over par, seven shots behind the leader (at 5pm, Thursday), Louis Oosthuizen who carded a six-under round of 64. 

The 2019 champion admitted he had an average day but was pleased by the spirit he showed to stay in the fight.

“I’d say I played pretty average, I didn’t play my best golf,” said Lowry. “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 was disappointed to bogey the last. Had I 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. On to tomorrow.” 

Before tomorrow comes, there was time to reflect on today.

“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 and I got off to a pretty nervy start. I battled hard for the rest of it. 

“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 crowds and getting clapped in the grandstands and on the tees, that’s pretty cool.” 

Darren Clarke felt good about himself too, as the Ulsterman returned to the scene of his greatest day, the venue where he won The Open 10 years ago.

Like Lowry, he posted a 71, playing steady golf after bogeying the first.

“It was wonderful to be back,” Clarke said. “You know, the reception I got on the first tee and the first fairway was great. 

“I actually hit the ball pretty nicely but I missed a couple of fairways by two inches and all of a sudden when you’re in that you’re trying to run the ball up or you’re aiming away from flags to not make any stupid mistakes. 

“Consequently my stats may have been somewhat misleading today, which frequently happens in links golf. But overall I was quite pleased with the way I actually hit the ball and the way I played.” 

Clarke admits that Phil Mickelson’s recent major win at Kiawah Island has inspired him to give it a go this week at The Open.

“You look at the way Phil Mickelson played at Kiawah,” said Clarke.

“He used a lot of his experience and was a fabulous winner there.”

Meanwhile, Rory McIlroy initially got off to a fine start in his round today, buoyed by the cheers as he arrived on the first tee, he sent a perfect drive down the fairway.

His second shot was even better, leaving him two feet from the pin: he putted in the birdie. He nearly had back-to-back birdies but his putt on the second just ended right of the hole.

The third saw him two-putt for par, the fourth resulting in him scrambling for a par, after his second landed off the green. He then bogeyed three holes in a row, five, six and seven, as the win picked up, dropping to two over through seven.

McIlroy’s reaction on the eighth – a birdie on the par four – eased his nerves. He was one over through eight.

Meanwhile, Padraig Harrington, the two-times former winner of The Open, showed all his fighting spirit as he overcame a disastrous start, a double bogey on the first, to play some better golf as his round progressed today.

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Harrington’s six on the par-4, first was followed by another bogey on the fourth. Facing the possibility of a disastrous round, the three-times Major winner clicked into gear, getting pars on five, six and seven before he birdied the eighth and ninth.

That gave him the platform to consolidate on the back nine and while a bogey on 15 blotted his scorecard, he replied shortly afterwards with a fine birdie on 17. Unfortunately for the Ryder Cup captain, he then bogeyed the last to card a 72.

Elsewhere, former champion Jordan Spieth admits he has got Royal Birkdale feels this week and it has helped propel him into contention on the first day of the 149th Open Championship.

The American has not won a major since lifting the Claret Jug on the Southport links four years ago and underwent a career slump, partially attributable to a hand injury which significantly affected his game.

In January this year he had slumped to 92nd in the world, his lowest ranking since July 2013, but since then he has staged a recovery with one victory and six top-10s in 10 PGA Tour events.

And on seeing the Sandwich links this week, his mind was immediately thrown back to 2017.

“Birkdale was a course that you played a lot from the air versus other Open venues,” said the three-time major winner, whose first-round 65 put him one off the six-under lead set by 2010 champion Louis Oosthuizen.

“You couldn’t really bounce it up a ton there, and you really can’t bounce it up a ton here.

“In that sense I think there’s similarities but I think if I had played any venue in 2017 I would have won that week – I was hitting it, at that time, the best I had maybe ever hit it in my life.

“Here I feel for the first time since then I’m at least coming in with a bit of form, a bit of confidence.

“I look back and I had a chance to win at least one of the majors each year when I felt like I had no idea where the ball was going which, I guess, could be bad and good.

“By no means do I feel like I’m where I want to be mechanically yet, but this year has been a really, really good progression for me, and that’s all I’m trying to do is just get a little bit better each day.”

About the author:

Garry Doyle

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