Shane Lowry may no longer have the pressure of Ryder Cup selection on his shoulders but he is still carrying the weight of expectation at the Horizon Irish Open after starting well in a tournament he would so dearly love to win.
Lowry was in fine form on Thursday morning on a warm yet muggy morning at the K Club, skipping round in four-under 68 to trail the early leaders by two shots. Seven birdies put a cheeky grin on his face and despite dropping three shots including a bogey, birdie, bogey finish, he was pleased with his overall game.
“I hit the ball well, today, I’m pretty happy. I drove it pretty well and hit good irons. I had some really, really nice iron shots and I rolled the ball on the greens. I did everything pretty much good today. I’m pretty happy with my mornings work,” explained Lowry who birdied the tenth and thirteenth before recovering from a dropped shot on 14 with a third birdie of the morning on 15.
The 2009 Irish Open champion roared into the mix with three birdies in four holes at the turn, holing putts from 22-feet and ten feet to hit -5. After finding the water on the 7th, he saw a six-footer for par slip by the hole before hitting a fabulous shot to five feet on the par-3 8th for a cast iron birdie. Lowry then found the left rough on his final hole, the ninth, and after hitting his second shot through the green he was unable to save par from ten feet but that did little to dampen his spirits.
Lowry enjoyed his morning, buoyed by the large gallery following him and Rory McIlroy in the group behind although it was clear he was playing a supporting role to the headline act.
“The crowd was great, amazing, eight o’clock this morning, still a big crowd out there and obviously it helps that me and Rory went back-to-back into different groups.
“I’m sure tomorrow afternoon is going to be pretty loud out there and there’ll be a lot of people and I’m looking forward to it.”
Lowry’s inclusion on Luke Donald’s Ryder Cup team came in for criticism from some corners, but he insists he feels no added pressure to justify his selection this week or in Wentworth. That’s not to say he is here to free-wheel it this week as he carries the pressure of trying to win a first Irish Open as a professional, just 45 minutes from his home in Clara.
“Not much frees you up this week, this is a big week for me you know I want to go out there and play well, I want to have a chance to win this tournament on Sunday. Clara is only 45 minutes to an hour away, I want people to be getting on their buses on Sunday morning to watch me try and win this tournament it has nothing to do with Ryder Cup or Wentworth next week. I want to win this tournament. This for me is huge. I feel at home here, I miss home when I am away .
“This is a big week there’s always like not to take away everything else that’s in the next two weeks this is a big week for me. I’m always a little bit anxious going into this tournament and I was a little bit anxious but out there this morning, what was gonna happen. I went out there and got off a good start and did a lot of things pretty well I’m pretty happy with my morning work.”