Shane Lowry again showed his fondness for the famed ‘Burma Road’ course taking Route 66 on the opening day of the flagship BMW PGA Championship.
Lowry emerged from the ‘on and off’ showers to end his day’s work in bright sunshine with a bogey-free display of six birdies, three on each half, for a six-under-par starting round to be in the stately Wentworth clubhouse just two shots off the early lead in the $8m event.
Setting the clubhouse target was Lowry’s playing partner Tommy Fleetwood who brilliantly birdied six of his closing seven holes, including the closing four.
Lowry commenced his round holing an eight-footer for birdie at the first and then ended by repeating the same trick on the par-5 18th having laid up from the bunker with his second. In between, Lowry also birdied the fourth, sixth, 11th and 15th.
While a preferred lie rule is in effect, the current World No. 23s round of 66 is just two shots more than his Wentworth best of an opening 64 en route to second place in the 2014 tournament while the Clara golfer’s record around the leafy Surrey layout is super strong having finished top-20 in nine of 13 appearances that also just speaks volumes for his likeness of the host course.
“It was fine. Obviously there were a few bad showers but like if you get them on the right holes, it’s actually okay,” he said. “You get them on the shorter easier holes, and I managed it. There was no wind out there. The course was very gettable. So, pretty happy with the round.”
Adding to Lowry’s ‘feel good’ factor is accompanying home favourites Fleetwood and Justin Rose, and out in the group immediately behind tournament favourite Rory McIlroy, who, along with defending champ Billy Horschel, posted scores of 68 while US Open champion Matthew Fitzpatrick, the third member of that group, signed for a 69.
“The atmosphere was great and the crowds are great and it’s the biggest event on the DP World Tour. It’s one of my favourites to come play in,” said Lowry. “I love playing here every year. I’ll never miss it. It’s something that really feels like a major tournament.
“We had Rory in the group ahead of us. I’m playing with Justin and Tommy, too, home favourites, I suppose, it was pretty nice and it was nice to kind of feed off the buzz of the crowd.
“I just feel like when you’re out here, the crowds are amazing. The atmosphere, they are very golf knowledgeable. They know their golf and if you hit a good shot, you get a nice clap. It’s just a really nice atmosphere to play golf in, from day one when I came here back in 2010, I’ve loved coming here ever since.”
McIlroy’s round of four-under was a mix of five birdies, including a 32-foot two putt for birdie on 18, along with the lone bogey.
“I thought I played okay. I just said the rain was on and off all day and that made it a little tricky, umbrellas up, umbrellas down, wet gear on, wet gear off,” he said.
“But the course, it’s so soft, so receptive. It’s target practice out there. If you can hit the ball in the fairway, you’ve got the ball in your hand. It’s preferred lies, so you can go low. I felt 4-under was pretty — yeah, I didn’t really do a lot right, I didn’t do a lot wrong. I definitely feel the course is going to be very enjoyable for the rest of the week.”
McIlroy is teeing-up as a former BMW PGA winner and coming off his PGA Tour season-ending triumph close to a fortnight ago in suburban Atlanta, and reassuring all his fans there remains plenty of gas in his golfing tank for continued success before year’s end.
“I think winning gives me motivation more than anything else,” said McIlroy.
“You’ve proven that you can win and you can beat the best players in the world. If you can’t get energised by that, I don’t know what will energise you.
“I always have this sense of excitement after a win that I’m breaking through or got to where I want to be or I’m on the right path. It’s good resetting goals, too.
“The PGA Tour season is over for me so I am turning my attention to Europe. Try to win The Race to Dubai. So it’s all about — you have to enjoy your wins, too, but you have to keep resetting your goals to strive for other things.”
Graeme McDowell is three shots back of McIlroy in signing for a one-under 71 while fellow Ulsterman Jonathan Caldwell never really recovered from an opening hole double-bogey ‘6’ en route to a three-over par 75.
Caldwell found a fairway bunker down the right side of the first, and only managed to advance his ball some 50-yards. He made birdie at the fourth but then three bogeys and a lone birdie from holes 13 to 17 was also hurtful for the Clandeboye golfer.
- Full scoring HERE