Shane Lowry and Graeme McDowell combined to keep Irish Golf on a high after last week’s Masters as both carded opening 66s early on day one of the RBC Heritage in South Carolina
Just four days after Rory McIlroy was runner-up and Lowry share third at Augusta, Lowry and McDowell had the Irish colours again flying high with a pair of bogey-free 66s on the Harbor Tour course at Hilton Head.
Both Lowry and McDowell were off the 10th and with Lowry capping his round in birdieing the closing three holes of his outward run, starting with a 30-foot monster and the par-3 16th, a 12-footer at the par-3 17th and a four-foot at the 18th.
Lowry then took his back-9, or the outward half on the scorecard, to birdie both the par-5 second and the par-5 eighth hole.
“The way the course is set up, I like keeping the ball down under the trees”, he said. “I think it kind of suits that. You need to kind of flight it around here, and that’s what I do well, keeping it down out of the wind.
“Even though you’re in the trees and you can’t really feel it, there’s a lot of wind up there. You just need to be in control of your ball, and I’ve done that really well today. I just love coming here.
“To be honest, it’s more so the time of year. It’s obviously a beautiful place and it’s a nice course and all, but the week after the Masters, last week is so stressful, and everybody has their families here, and it feels almost like a semi-holiday and you just go and play a bit of golf as well.”
Lowry’s flying solo this week and without his wife and two young daughters, and sharing a house with good friend, Tommy Fleeetwod. And after the excitement, the tension, and the reward of the best finish at Augusta National, Lowry said he’s just enjoyed chilling out since Monday’s 130-mile odd drive from Augusta.
“I didn’t do much Tuesday. I didn’t do anything Monday. I played nine holes with Tommy on Tuesday afternoon and played nine-hole Pro-Am yesterday”, Lowry said.
“It’s been pretty chill, pretty easy. Been spending a lot of time at the house just hanging out and taking it easy.
Yeah, I’m happy with my score today. I’ve got close to 24 hours off now, so just go back and get ready to do the same thing tomorrow”.
This week is the ninth anniversary of McDowell’s RBC Heritage, and his second ‘regular’ PGA Tour win after his 2010 US Open success. Now, the 42-year-old has quickly ignited a quest for a fifth Tour victory.
G Mac also posted five birdies, including sinking a seven-footer at the 10th or the first hole of his round while he also birdied 16th, holing a tap-in putt, while he birdied the par-3 17th by chipping-in from 15th just right of the flag,
McDowell made the turn to hole a 20-foot gem for birdie at the par-5 fifth hole and then a seven-footer at the next for birdie.“It was pleasing”, said McDowell. “First six holes it was pretty benign, sort of a morning in Hilton Head, but the wind eventually showed up, and it was pretty tricky. It was gusty, so you had to really pick your moment to hit shots.
“The golf course is in great shape. I think it will continue to firm up going into the weekend. And it’s always a great test of golf here. I felt like I controlled my ball well, kept it in play off the tee, which is the number one key, and obviously iron play and I felt good on the greens.“Decent start. Got to continue doing the same things going into the weekend. Like I say, getting it into play off the tees is so huge around here”
McDowell’s effort, albeit on the opening day of the tournament, is a long-overdue return to form after the recent injury-related disappointment that we are led to believe was back spasm concerns.
“What happened in the DR (Dominican Republic) is really disappointing to me because I really felt like I had a chance to win that weekend”, said McDowell.
“Thankfully it was a muscle strain rather than some sort of joint or spine issue. Fortunately, it just required rest.
“I tried to play San Antonio. I probably shouldn’t have traveled in hindsight. Watched plenty of Masters last week, got plenty of rest. Thankfully, I’ve been able to pick up where I left off, where I felt like I was really swinging the club well, controlling my ball flight, and really hitting a lot of good shots.
“So, it was pleasing to come here the last few days and see that the back hasn’t really affected my golf swing much at all.”
American Cameron Young posted eight birdies in mistake-free 63 to be the early leader by three shots. Also sharing second with Lowry and McDowell on five-under was Canadian Corey Conners and Chilean Mito Periera.
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