Shane Lowry got off to a solid start at this weekend’s Wyndham Championship on the PGA Tour, but it was American Russell Henley who set the pace with a sizzling opening 62.
Lowry is back on two under at the Sedgefield Country Club in North Carolina, which puts him on 76th place on that all-important Order of Merit ahead of the FedExCup playoffs.
The Offalyman stood at 76th place in the rankings going into this week knowing that a strong finish gets him into the mega money tour-ending series of tourneys.
The top 70 after this week qualify and Lowry can feel positive after a strong finish on Thursday.
He said he thinks the FedExCup owes him a run.
“It’s funny, I feel like I’ve been in situations like this quite a bit over the last number of years,” Lowry said in a pre-tournament press conference at Sedgefield.
“I missed out on the Tour Championship by one spot last year, by two shots in 2019. I remember playing here one year, I’d been told I needed a top 10 to get to the play-offs, I finished seventh and I missed out by one point.
“So I feel like the play-offs nearly owes me one at this stage, so that’s what I’m trying to tell myself this year.”
After an indifferent front nine, Lowry hit the turn in one under on Thursday, which positioned him nicely.
However, a bogey at ten put him in trouble before two brilliant birdies on 15 and 16 brought him right back up the leaderboard.
It is up to the former major winner himself now to keep up the pace going into the weekend, make the cut and get through to the playoffs.
But back at the top, Russell Henley has few cut or FedExCup concerns this weekend, but there are some past demons that haunt him at this particular tournament.
Henley admitted he still thinks about a poor finish from two years ago at the Wyndham. He had no complaints about his start Thursday, an eight-under 62 that gave him the lead in the final tournament before the PGA TOUR’s FedExCup Playoffs.
Henley hit his approach to six feet for eagle on the par-5 15th on his way to a 30 on the back nine at rain-softened Sedgefield. He led by one over Adam Svensson and Byeong Hun An, who birdied his last two holes.
Henley is at No. 34 in the FedExCup standings, while Svensson is No. 37 and An No. 52. They are assured a place in the Playoffs, which is for the top 70. They could be getting a head start on the FedExCup Playoffs.
Adam Scott doesn’t have that luxury, and that made his opening 65 invaluable. He is at No. 81 and needs a big finish to salvage his season. So does Justin Thomas at No. 78 – for both the FedExCup and the Ryder Cup – and he could only manage a 70.
Henley was helped by avoiding the light but steady rain that fell most of the morning, the weather Scott, Thomas and other early starters had to face. Henley missed only two fairways and rode a hot putter, a good recipe for this course.
Two years ago, Henley had a three-shot lead going into the final round and still had control on the back nine when he made four bogeys over the last eight holes, including the 18th to miss out on a playoff by one shot. It still bothers him.
“I think about it a lot,” Henley said. “I was leading by three going in the final round and was leading the tournament by a few going into No. 11 … and didn’t get it done,” Henley said. “That’s a good learning experience, and feel like I’ve gotten better as a player because of it. But all I can do is just one shot at a time right now.”