By Keith Jackson
Last Updated: 19/04/19 12:09am
Shane Lowry produced an impressive response to his Masters disappointment as he claimed the first-round lead at the RBC Heritage in South Carolina.
Lowry missed the cut for the third time in his fourth appearance at Augusta National last week after rounds of 78 and 73, but he kept the errors at bay at Hilton Head Island in an opening six-birdie 65.
The Irishman went out in the second group of the day from the 10th tee and posted a tough early target in the clubhouse which held up through to the close, and he will sleep on a one-stroke lead over the American quintet of Ryan Moore, Daniel Berger, Ryan Palmer, Trey Mullinax and Luke List, with Alex Noren one further adrift.
World No 1 Dustin Johnson, joint runner-up to Tiger Woods at the first major of the year, opened with a solid 68 along with the likes of Graeme McDowell and Seamus Power, while course-specialist Luke Donald and Ryder Cup star Ian Poulter were among the 52 players under the card after round one.
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Lowry got into red numbers on his second hole when he sank a 20-foot putt for birdie at the 11th, and he added another at the next before a sublime pitch to inside three feet at the long 15th lifted him to three under after six holes.
After a run of pars around the turn, the Abu Dhabi Championship winner picked up further shots at the two par-fives on the front nine, and he converted one further chance from eight feet at the ninth to complete a round devoid of the mistakes that have contributed to four missed cuts in his last six starts on the PGA Tour.
“I hit the ball pretty well off the tee, which gave me a lot of chances,” he said. “I knew when I saw the tee time it was a decent draw to get out there first thing and it wasn’t very windy. When it gets windy around here it can swirl in the trees and get very difficult.
“I’m glad because my golf has not been great as of late. It’s a funny game! I’ve been struggling with my par-five scoring, and I just played them nicely today. I’ve struggled off the tee quite a bit this year, but I managed to find a new driver that I like. I hit that pretty good, and when you do that on par-fives it always gives yourself a chance.”
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McDowell recovered from an opening bogey at the 10th to card four birdies, including two over his last four holes in his 68 which was later matched by Johnson, who mixed four birdies with just one dropped shot in a workmanlike first round.
Donald did well to end the day at one under after he lost his drive into the wilderness to the right of the fifth fairway and ran up a seven, and another poor tee shot at the next cost him a further shot before he hit back with a pair of birdies and a scrambled par tin an eventful last third of his round.
Tommy Fleetwood, Eddie Pepperell, Matt Fitzpatrick and Russell Knox all fired level-par rounds of 71, but Francesco Molinari has work to do to make the weekend after he stumbled to a 74, perhaps distracted by his back-nine troubles at Augusta National last week.
Due to the threat of bad weather, Friday’s second round coverage will start much earlier than scheduled. We will have full live coverage from 1:30pm to 4:30pm on Sky Sports Golf, your home of the majors.