Cold temperatures, driving rain and a play stoppage for flooded greens is the last thing you expect in the desert, but that’s exactly what we got on day one of the Waste Management Phoenix Open at TPC Scottsdale.
But Shane Lowry made the most of the testing conditions to post an opening four-under 67 that sees the Offaly man positioned tied for third with half of the field yet to complete their first rounds.
The day began in ideal fashion for the 2019 Open Champion, wedging to just over a foot at the 10th – his first – and then pouring in a 27-footer on 11 to get to two-under through two. Further showing off his wedge skills, a chip at the par-5 13th was followed by a full wedge at the par-5 15th, both setting up birdies as he covered the opening six in -4.
After slightly pulling his tee shot at the famous, stadium par-3 16th, he found himself on a downhill lie in the bunker and, unable to get any spin control on his blast out, had to settle for bogey, but responded with back-to-back birdies on 17 and 18 to make the turn at -5 in sole possession of the lead.
The light drizzle that had accompanied him for most of the opening nine had turned to heavy rain, and a bogey at 11 dropped him back to -4 and out of sole possession of the lead, and birdie putt lip-outs at 12 and 13 were frustrating after more excellent iron play and, with the rain getting steadily heavier, play was halted just after he’d completed an excellent par-saving up-and-down at 14.
After a three-and-a-half hour delay, play resumed at 4pm local time, and with the rain eased but temperatures dropping significantly, he closed out the round with four pars to sit two off the clubhouse lead held by Sahith Theegala.
“Yeah, it was pretty good,” Lowry said after his round. “I was going quite well, obviously, before the delay. It got really bad towards the end, it was quite tough. We came back out, the wind was not blowing as strong, but the ball was going nowhere, and it was cold and kind of tough. I was happy I made a couple of really nice saves coming in, and I’m pretty happy with my day’s work.
“No, just I think it’s a mental factor of trying to get to tell yourself that the ball’s just going like 20 yards shorter. You’re standing there from 190, and normally you would be able to push a 7-iron there, and you have to hit 5-iron. So, mentally it’s quite challenging to tell yourself that sometimes. But the guys who do that best this week — because it’s going to be cold all week, I think the ball’s not going to be going very far for most of the week — so, yeah, it will be interesting to see what the scoring does over the next few days. I would imagine it’s still going to be pretty decent because it’s pretty soft and the greens are perfect, so, yeah, we’ll see.”
Lowry is no stranger to weather delays or testing conditions, having famously prevailed in the Irish Open as an amateur in a biblical deluge on the closing stretch and cantered to a six-shot Open Championship win in Portrush on another horrendous final round.
“You ride it out,” he said when asked how you handle such a delay. “It’s one of those where, the older you get, the more you realize don’t let it affect you, just go in, chill out. I’m lucky, I have a couple of friends here with me this week. We went out to my car in the parking lot and we just hung there for about two hours, warmed up, because it was very cold. Yeah, you just get used to it as the years go on.
“I’ve been out here long enough to know that each week is different. You get good, bad, indifferent weather. If anything, it’s more disappointing to me because the atmosphere is not as good as it normally is, with everyone being so cold and wrapped up. I’m sure there’s less drink been taken out there as well, because it’s not exactly nice weather to have a cold beer in your hands. Yeah, it’s one of those where you just have to deal with whatever comes. I think the weather’s going to be nice tomorrow, not great Saturday, and nice again on Sunday. So it will still be cold all week, we’ll see what happens.”
Seamus Power, scheduled to start in the afternoon wave, managed to get just four holes in before play was halted for darkness, but at -1, he’s off to a good start and should fare slightly better weather wise for the conclusion of his opening round, with temperatures remaining low but with less rain expected.