Shane Lowry struggled to get motoring on his PGA Tour season debut as he carded just two birdies and two bogeys in a level-par 70 in the opening round of the Honda Classic at PGA National.
The former Open champion needed a birdie on his final hole of the day – the ninth – to finish where he started, leaving him six shots off early leader Kurt Kitayama in Palm Beach Gardens.
Meanwhile, Padraig Harrington found scoring even tougher as two birdies, three bogeys and a double-bogey led to a three-over 73 that has him battling to make the cut, which currently lies at one-over.
At the top, Kitayama mastered the infamous Bear Trap after stringing together two separate runs of four and three consecutive birdies on his way to a six-under 64 that has him one shot clear of Rory Sabbatini, Daniel Berger and Chris Kirk after 18 holes.
That is the mark that Lowry is chasing, although he will need to improve his approach play in order to do so as he gave himself just one birdie chance inside 10-feet in his first round, which led to him only signing for two.
The Clara man started his round at the 10th and gave himself birdie chances inside 16-feet on the 11th, 12th and 13th but saw none of them drop, before he ran into trouble in the Bear Trap when he failed to get out of a greenside bunker at the par-three 17th, leading to a bogey.
He got that shot back at the 18th when he hit the par-five in two and successfully two-putted, however a wild drive at the par-five second led to his second dropped shot when he could only hack it beside the green with his third and failed to get up-and-down.
A frustrating run of pars followed, which only yielded a couple of outside birdie chances, before he did get back to level-par with an 11-foot birdie putt on the par-four eighth.
“I sat down at the end of last year with everyone in my team and we went through the past season and with everyone asked what they thought and there was not much that came out other than I have to remain patient and wait for it to happen,” Lowry had said before the event.
“I feel I played a lot of tournaments where I put two or three good rounds together and it just didn’t happen in the fourth rounds. You only need it to happen one week and all of a sudden it clicks and then you are standing there on the podium at the end of the week.
“So I don’t think there is that much that needs to change other than keep doing what I am doing and stay patient and wait for it to happen, and hopefully it happens in about six to seven weeks.”
Meanwhile, Harrington had a tough day which was made even worse when he finished his round with that costly double, which has him scaling a mountain in his second round to stick around for the weekend.
Sitting at one-over playing the ninth, the former European Ryder Cup captain pulled his tee-shot into the water and took a six at the par-four, leading to him carding a three-over 73 that has him in a share of 104th.
Harrington had done well to battle back from being three-over after his opening six holes, bogeying the par-four 12th after again finding the water off the tee, then dropping further shots at the par-four 14th and the opening hole of the Bear Trap, the par-three 15th.
The 50-year-old would get one shot back with a fantastic sand save from a greenside bunker at the par-five 18th, and then took advantage of the par-five third to get back to one-over, only for his disastrous finish to undo all that good work.
Several players will need to finish their first rounds at PGA National on Friday morning after darkness suspended play.
- Full scoring HERE