The trio of Shane Lowry, Graeme McDowell and Rory McIlroy superbly impressed to be a collective 14-under par on the opening day of the RBC Canadian Open in Hamilton, Ontario.
Lowry produced his lowest opening PGA Tour score of the season grabbing seven birdies in a six-under par 64 on the Hamilton Golf & Country Club course.
It left Lowry trailing just a shot adrift of American Keegan Bradley who grabbed five birdies in succession mid-round to lead the €6.7m event.
Lowry’s effort was a shot fewer than the first round 65 he posted in sharing third place in April’s RBC Heritage while his lowest round on either the PGA Tour or European Tour this year was a sizzling 2019 opening round of 62 to set-up victory in his very first event of the year – the Abu Dhabi HSBC Championship.
Lowry, making his debut in the Canadian event, birdied both his third and fourth holes and did the same at 11 and 12 with the pick of the birdies in holing a 24-footer at the par-4 14th. After two weeks at home where golf wasn’t the priority, the Offaly man is pleased what with he saw on day one.
“I’ve just had two weeks off and I really didn’t do too much work on my game, so coming here this week I wasn’t really sure what to expect but very happy with my round,” said Lowry.
“In saying that, I have been enjoying my golf of late as evident in my results in recent weeks while I am much happier mentally.
“Teeing off early this morning it was very cold and the ball was not going very far but as the morning went on, it got very pleasant out there.”
The conditions were very much in stark contrast to a day earlier when a predicted thunderstorm arrived early, catching officials along with players alike off guard.
Lowry was out in the Pro-Am and without rain gear or an umbrella but in taking shelter, he happily forked out $100 Canadian for the privilege.
“I thought the storm was coming in a 1pm and after we would have finished the Pro-Am but then the rain came early and there was a couple sitting in the crowd with an umbrella each, so I gave the lady $100 for her umbrella,” he said smiling.
“Though after a while it started leaking and I got very wet, and with the suspension meaning I didn’t get to see the whole course.”
McDowell was out in the afternoon half of the draw to produce a great round of six birdies, including three in his opening five holes and then a pair to finish in signing for a five-under par 65 that puts him in a share of 7th heading into round two.
G Mac, who has long been an RBC golfing ambassador, went to four-under par when he two-putted the par-5 17th for birdie ahead of seeing a 10-foot putt for birdie vanish into the cup at the uphill par-4 18th.
“I am happy enough with that as I came into this week really wanting to focus on the way I was driving the ball,” he said.
“It has not been where I would like it to be and coming to a golf course like this where you must hit the fairways, it was kind of the round I was looking for.
“I drove it really well today and gave myself a lot of looks on the greens and, if anything, my short game wasn’t all that sharp so if I can sharpen that up, I feel like I am doing all I need to do, but then it’s always nice to finish birdie, birdie.”
McDowell’s effort has boosted his goal to qualify for next month’s Open Championship at Royal Portursh, with the three leading non-Open qualifiers at the close of this week’s Canadian Open to win through to the 148th Open. McDowell’s currently just two shots off the lead.
Meanwhile, McIlroy’s maiden Canadian Open round was a mix of five birdies but also two bogeys in a round of 67 as he seeks to capture a sixth ‘national’ Open title after victories in the U.S. Open, Hong Kong Open, Australian Open, The Open and the 2016 Irish Open.
The World No.4’s day was capped early with back-to-back birdies at three and four where McIlroy rolled-in respective putts of 12 and eight feet.
“I really feel like it was the worst I could have shot out there and while it could have been a few shots lower, it’s a solid score,” he said.
“I played very well. I hit it much better off the tee, and that was a big key. You have to play out of these fairways to give yourself chances.”
A closer look at McIlroy’s stats reveal he missed just three greens in regulation, a far better effort than a week ago on route to missing the halfway cut in The Memorial.
“There is definitely an improvement on how I played last week at the Memorial,” he said.
“A little bit of work that I did over the weekend and at the start of the week has seemed to fit in quite nicely. Obviously, a lot of low scores. I felt like I could have gone a few lower, but it’s golf.”
Further down the board, Seamus Power, also making his RBC Canadian Open debut, posted 10 straight opening pars before birdies at 13 and 18 were cancelled out by dropped shots at his 11th and 16th holes in signing a level par 70.
And Padraig Harrington superbly fought back from being two-over par through nine holes to get back to two-under par after 14 holes, thanks to birdies at his 10th, 11th, 13th and 14th holes.
Unfortunately, Harrington then made a total hash of his 15th, the par-3 sixth hole, where he got a ‘flyer’ from a greenside bunker that went ‘out-of-bounds’.
He took a penalty drop in the bunker and splashed-out to 15-inches for an eventual double-bogey ‘5’ and then dropped to two-over in three-putting the next in an eventual 18-hole score of one-over 71 that sees the European Ryder Cup captain just outside the top-100.
Full scoring HERE