2012 Portuguese champion Shane Lowry looked right at home as he blasted his way to a share of second spot after day one of the Portugal Masters at Dom Pedro Victoria Golf Course.
In a good omen for Clara man Lowry, his new caddie Bo Martin has won twice before on this course, alongside defending champion Lucas Bjerregaard of Denmark and Frenchman Alex Levy in 2014, and there was certainly a winning look between this latest pairing today.
Lowry reeled off nine birdies en route to a seven-under-par 64 that sees him just one shot back from Australian Lucas Herbert. Having taken a few weeks off after failing to secure his PGA Tour card for next season, it’s no wonder the Irishman was smiling after such an encouraging opening effort.
“I’m obviously very happy, 64 any day is very good,” he reflected. “I’ve had four weeks off so it was nice to come back and shoot a good score. Looking forward to tomorrow now.”
“My caddie has won twice around here. He’s just started working with me this week, so it’s our first day on the job. I suppose there’s only one way to go from here, that’s the only thing!”
“I’ve won here, I had my first professional win, so very fond memories. I love coming back down here to play and I come down on holiday quite a lot. I love it here.”
On a mixed day for Ireland’s traveling contingent, Paul Dunne was next best as he carded five birdies on his way to a confidence boosting three-under-par 68 that finds him just inside the top-30.
However they were the only Irishmen to break par as Padraig Harrington slumped to a surprising two-over-par round of 73 after such sound form of late while on professional debut, Tramore’s Robin Dawson fared one shot worse off in a plus-three 74 that included two birdies.
The man at the top comes from the land Down Under as Lucas Herbert equalled the lowest round of his European Tour career to take a one-shot lead after the first round in Portugal.
England’s Eddie Pepperell and Matt Wallace had set the target at seven under par with bogey-free rounds of 64 during a low scoring morning, and for most of the afternoon it looked as though they would share the lead going into round two in Vilamoura.
But Australian Herbert went one better with another bogey-free round of 63 to get to eight under par, with Lowry also joining Pepperell and Wallace at one shot off the lead.
Herbert’s round of 63 matched his final-round total from the Rocco Forte Sicilian Open where he finished in a tie for third, one of four top tens this season that have helped him to 103rd on the Race to Dubai Rankings presented by Rolex as he seeks a first full campaign on Tour in 2019.
“Coming off last week I was battling a bit with my form, so I’ve got my coach over here and my physio and we straightened things out,” he said. “It was good to feel like we got the benefit of that today.
“For most of the start of the year my form was quite sporadic, I could shoot eight under but I could also shoot a couple over and throw a double and a triple in there. I’ve been a lot more consistent lately. I haven’t made as many big numbers and at least limited the damage to bogeys.
“There’s a lot of pressure coming in to this time of the year. Most of the other guys will probably get more starts than me to finish off the year so there’s probably a bit of pressure on me to play well.”
China’s Li Haotong is two shots off the lead at six under par, a shot clear of a group of ten players which includes 2017 Masters Tournament
champion Sergio Garcia of Spain, Italian Renato Paratore and French pair Raphaël Jacquelin and Adrien Saddier.
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