Shane Lowry was heading straight to the practice range despite the delight in posting a four-under 68 on the opening day of the Safeway Open at Napa in California.
Lowry, competing in the $US6m event for the first time in his career, was level par through 11 holes and then played his closing seven holes in four-under on the Silverado resort course.
Scotland’s Russell Knox, like Lowry, a former Irish Open winner, grabbed an eagle and seven birdies in a nine-under par 63 to take the first round lead in the first event of the new 2020/21 PGA Tour season after making a timely return to form on Thursday.
Knox had ended the 2019/20 season early last month having missed a run of nine halfway cuts before and after the lockdown ahead of finding some form in his closing two events but ending his year 127th on the FedEx Cup standings.
Fortunately, the Tour made the decision during the three-month lockdown that all players eligible for the 2019/20 season would not lose their Tour card, and that included a relieved Knox.
“I’ve struggled in the first rounds for so long I feel like, so one of my main goals this season was to get off to a better start. I didn’t quite expect this, but it was nice to shoot a good score,” said Knox.
“Historically, I’ve always been a pretty terrible starter, even in tournaments I’ve done very well in.
“Missing the FedEx Cup Playoffs was extremely disappointing for me. I had a very terrible start from after the quarantine. I mean, I deserved to not make it.
“So, the last couple weeks, I have a new coach now in Mark McCann and I’ve worked as hard as I ever have the last two weeks before this event.
“It’s really nice to see something good happen immediately. I definitely feel like my game is heading in the right direction.”
The 100 plus temperatures over the practice rounds gave way to a one-hour delay due to fog, with players looking for pullovers in the first round of 50 events on the new schedule.
Lowry was off the 10th tee but was one-over after four holes with a bogey at his 13th before a first birdie at the par-5 18th when he chipped to seven-foot.
The Clara golfer found the ‘side door’ for a birdie at the third hole and after finding a fairway bunker down the right side of the fourth, or his 13th, then after finding the green some 12-foot left of the flag, he broke out in a big smile in sending his ball to the bottom of the cup to be now two-under.
And it was a delighted Lowry who then birdied his 17th, holing a 12-footer, before comfortably holing a six-footer on the last for his 68.
“It was too nice when we teed-off, and what with a bit of a delay, and while I got off to a bit of a slow start it was nice to finish the way I did,” said Lowry.
“I ground it out well and I also feel as though I played my best with some new equipment in the bag.
“I did struggle with the driver so I am off to the range now to try and figure that out. I put a new shaft in it this week and it feels like it’s a little strong for me.
“Aside from that, I am happy to finish at four under.”
And what was it like playing alongside the now 50-year old Phil Mickelson?
“It was a nice morning and nice to again play alongside Phil, I always have a good time playing alongside Phil,” said Lowry.
“I’ve always said he is one player I would always pay to watch.”
The effort saw Lowry head to the clubhouse sharing sixth place while Mickelson struggled in signing for a 71.
Fellow Irishman Seamus Power, who was out in the first group, was also the first to finish his round posting a three-over 75.
Power had been one-under through 11 holes but dropped four shots in succession from the 12th to 15th holes.
Full scoring HERE
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