Shane Lowry enjoyed the perfect start to his Irish Open challenge after finding five birdies in a fine opening effort in County Clare.
The home favourite dropped just the one shot en route to a four-under par 66 that sees him just one shot off the early leaders and ideally placed heading into round two.
The Clara golfer capped a super round with a closing birdie at the par-5 18th and given much of the build up has focussed on the smiling highest-ranked Irishman in the field this week, Lowry was pleased to hit the ground running as he goes in search of a second National Open win.
“There’s certain weeks over the past few years where I’ve shot myself in the foot at the start so it was nice to go well,” reflected Lowry.
“It’s very hard to describe it. Over the years I’ve tried to dampen it, I’ve tried to take expectation off myself but it’s just so hard.
“I was on the putting green there this morning and I couldn’t wait to get going. Once you hit your first couple of shots you’re into your round and you’re going then and the adrenaline is pulling you through.
“I’ve been playing nice over the last while. I’m very happy with where my games is at the minute and long may it continue.”
With the crowd turning out early to catch a glimpse of the world number 34, the Offaly golfer is expecting things to ramp up another level as the weekend closes in.
“There were huge crowd for how early we were teeing off,” he smiled. “I think tomorrow’s going to be mad out there so hopefully I can give them something to cheer for heading into the weekend.”
Of the other Irish finishers, The Island’s Paul McBride enjoyed a solid start having only qualified for the $7 million Rolex Series event earlier in the week at Moyvalley golf club.
The Dubliner topped and tailed his round with birdies and dropped two shots in between to return a pleasing day one 70 at the pristine links.
Alongside him currently in a share of 45th is West Waterford’s Seamus Power who is making a rare appearance on home soil.
The PGA Tour star seemed to enjoy his homecoming round, carding two birdies and two bogeys in a steady opening 70 of his own.
Former Open champion, Darren Clarke found two birdies in his last four holes to sign off on a one-over par 71.
That was one stroke better than Graeme McDowell who largely struggled on the opening day at a track he knows well having won the South of Ireland Championship at Lahinch back in 2000.
GMac managed just one birdie at the par-3 8th and will be looking for much better than his two-over par 72 tomorrow to ensure his name features over the weekend in Clare.
“I’ve just got to place the ball more in the fairway tomorrow,” said McDowell. “A few of these tee shots are tough. They sit across you and it is tough to get it in the cut grass and I didn’t do that well enough today.
“Maybe that was a case of not knowing the course super, super well in this wind direction. More fairways tomorrow, give me a chance to hit my irons better and a little closer and make some birdies.
“Like I say, it’s not alarm bells. Didn’t play terrible. Just back at it tomorrow.”
Joining GMac at plus-two was Gavin Moynihan who closed with a heartening birdie after a round riddled with mistakes. The Dubliner made six bogeys in-all and will be another hoping to sure things up ahead of a big Friday in Lahinch.
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