Shane Lowry’s biggest concern on the opening day of his maiden Valspar Championship round was getting out of the way of Tiger Woods.
Lowry ended his round producing a level par 71 on the ninth green of the Copperhead Course at the Innisbrook Resort to the north of Tampa on Florida’s western shoreline. It left Lowry trailing only four shots behind little-known Canadian Corey Conners who heads the field with a four-under par 67.
Lowry and his playing partners then made their way to the scorer’s hut at the back of the 18th green. But in the time Lowry was in the scorer’s hut Woods had ended his round of a one-under par 70 and headed up the steps of the scorer’s hut, with his putter still in hand, with Lowry and his grouping still inside the hut and going about the affairs of officially recording their scores.
Lowry then emerged to see the area around the scorer’s hut swarming with local police officers, Valspar officials, caddies, children seeking autographs and media waiting to attract Woods attention to which he remarked, “Bernie, I’m happy to talk about my round but let’s get away from here as it’s madness”.
Lowry’s round got off to a great start when he holed a 20-footer for birdie at the par-5 11th, the second hole of his round. It was then, as it was for all in the field, very much a case of keeping the bogeys off the card in the cold and very windy conditions.
Lowry parred the next seven holes including negotiating the famed ‘Snake Pit’, and the closing three holes on the Copperhead course, in level par.
He headed past the clubhouse to the first hole on his scorecard, the 10th of his round, but found a fairway bunker left of the downhill par-5 on route to his first dropped shot.
Lowry was then one-over in dropping a shot at his 12th hole before pulling off the shot of his round at the par-4 seventh, his 16th, landing his 138-yard wedge shot to just two-feet and rolling in the putt for a ‘3’ to get back to level par.
And despite all the ‘madness’ around the scorer’s hut it was a delighted Clara golfer pleased with his showing.
“It was a good day’s work and I played great on a day it was just so hard getting the direction of the wind correct as it was swirling from every direction,” he said.
“Overall, I am very happy as I played good and the only shot I really missed all day was my drive off 15. The thing is that if we get no wind the course is very playable but out there today, and also being here for a first time, the wind does swirl and the wind can change direction just so quickly.”
“You could hit your tee shot with the wind blowing in one direction but then when you get up there to play your second the wind is coming from the opposite direction, so it’s also been a mentally tough day out there.”
“The good thing is that I drove the ball well and I’ve put a 3-iron in the bag this week. So, hopefully going out early tomorrow the wind is not so strong and I can go about building on today’s decent start.”
Lowry led the four other Irish in the field with Graeme McDowell dropping two shots over his closing four holes in a two-over par 73, one fewer than fellow Ulsterman Rory McIlroy who could manage to find just six of the 13 fairways in the morning half of the draw but a great positive for the World No. 11 was recording just 26 putts.
Both Seamus Power and Padraig Harrington struggled to be well down the board in posting five-over par 76s.