Lowry and McDowell off to sound starts in Sea Island

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Lowry and McDowell off to sound starts in Sea Island

Shane Lowry (Photo by Patrick Smith/Getty Images)

Shane Lowry and Graeme McDowell both lay the foundation for what promises to be a good week as Camilo Villegas made a welcomed return to the top of a PGA Tour leaderboard at the RSM Classic.

Fresh from his top-25 finish at the Masters, Lowry showed no ill-effects from major championship competition in posting five birdies around the Seaside Course in a three-under par round of 67. Even par playing his last four holes of the day, the 33-year old birdied three on the spin from the par-3 sixth to share 21st overnight, just three shots off the pace.

With two courses in operation this week, McDowell teed off the par-72 Plantation Course where a birdie at the opening hole was cancelled out by a bogey at the second. GMac dropped another to the turn but after a weekend off last week at Augusta, there was plenty of energy and good golf in the tank to mount a turnaround. Birdies followed at 10, 15 and a two-putt gain at the par-5 last to be home and hosed in 70, one shot behind Lowry and in a share of 31st at two-under.

Meanwhile, Villegas’ name atop the board will be a welcomed sight for every golf fan given the heartbreak the Columbian golfer has been through in recent times. His daughter Mia, months shy of her second birthday, was diagnosed with high-grade glioneuronal tumors on her brain and on her spine in March and lost her battle with the disease, something Villegas, now 38, has spoken about bravely since making his return to the PGA Tour fairways.

“You know what, I just did a little bit [get emotional] when I mentioned her name,” he said after an opening 64 on the Seaside Course. “When I’m out there, I’m so focused, there’s so much going on, especially under these conditions. I’m there with my brother and you just follow a process. So to answer your question, you’re so focused on what you’re doing that it doesn’t really — I’m not going to say it doesn’t distract me, but like I said, when I got on the range and I saw a rainbow, hey, listen, here it is. She loved colours and rainbows and my wife was all about it. And it was cool. It was a nice way to start the day.”

“It’s plain and simple, I’ve said it a million times, I can’t change the past and since I can’t change the past, I’ve got to focus on the present. It’s not about forgetting because you never forget your daughter, but it’s about — it’s about being in the moment, being in the now and this is my now. It’s not with her, but it’s — it’s — it is with her at the same time, so you’ve just got to stick to the process.

“I love playing golf, I love doing what I do. The game of golf has been great to me. I happened to have a shoulder injury there for the last couple years that kind of set me back a bit, but I’m excited. I think things are rolling the right way and obviously if I keep doing what I did today, it should be fine.”

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