Peter Lawrie opened with a super 66 in the Omega Dubai Desert Classic but Shane Lowry’s 74 left him in danger of failing to qualify for next month’s WGC-Accenture Match Play suffered a major blow.
On a day when 93 players in the 132-strong field broke par, the Offaly man finished the day tied for 113th with Ryder Cup skipper Paul McGinley on two over and is now in serious danger of missing the cut.
Normally that wouldn’t be a major drama but world No 62 Lowry knows he must make the cut here and possibly finish in the top 20 if he is to remain inside the world’s top 64 who qualify for Tucson on February 11.
At the time of writing, Lowry is not entered for next week’s Joburg Open in South Africa but he may now have to consider that option if he wants to earn a place in the Match Play field and continue his quest to clinch a Masters debut by cracking the world’s top 50 by the end of March.
“I’ve had better days,” Lowry tweeted after a round featuring four bogeys and just two birdies, both at par fives. “Need to just keep plugging away.”
While Lowry and McGinley were left licking their wounds, it was a good day for the rest of the Irish contingent finished in the red.
Lawrie was the man at the top of the pile after he notched seven birdies and a bogey in a 66 to share sixth place and trail leader Richard Sterne (62) by four shots.
“I got off to a great start,” Lawrie told European Tour Radio. “A 66 around here is a great score. Going on this morning’s round (by Sterne), you’d have to say 10 under is a fabulous score. But the way the course was set it today, it was on.
“The greens were running perfectly. It wasn’t too windy and the course was playing quite short. The score was there for the taking.”
Lawrie birdied four of the first eight holes and came back from his lone bogey at the ninth with birdies at the 11th, 14th and 15th but was slightly disappointed to miss a couple of chances coming home.
“I’m a bit of a perfectionist and missed a couple of chances but I holed a good putt on 16 (for par) to keep me in the game and unfortunately missed one there on the last. But all in all 66 is a good score.”
Ranked 39th in the Race to Dubai, 38-year old Lawrie began his year finishing 23rd in Abu Dhabi and 42nd in Qatar but he’s hoping to kick on and do something this week.
“I’ve been playing solid. I came out in Abu Dhabi a little bit ring rusty and quite well in Qatar but nothing happened. A 66 is a nice way to start here so let’s build on that for the rest of the week.
“I have (played well here in the past) but I’ve never put too many solid scores together so I have to try and build on this and hopefully we can have a good week.”
One of the shorter hitters on tour, Lawrie believes that the 7,300 yard track suits his game.
“You don’t have to hit it that long and the fairways slope right to left and left to right which means you have to position your tee shots,” he said. “That suits me. You have to pick your spots and hit it there.
“I was very surprised the (tour sent out) the warning note about the greens. The greens are perfect. Okay, we have that extra bit of fringe on the edge of the greens but it helps when you miss a green because it softens the blow for the chip shot. In general you couldn’t ask for better conditions.”
Damien McGrane had just 22 putts in a four under 68 but that was still just good enough for a share of 22nd while Gareth Maybin’s 69 left him tied for 43rd.
Michael Hoey shot a one under 71 but finished the day outside the projected cut mark after Sterne shot a ten under par 62 that was only a single stroke outside the Emirates course record set by compatriot Ernie Els 19 years ago.
“I knew Ernie had shot 61 quite a while ago and always thought it would be impossible to get close, but I got as close as you could,” said Sterne, who leads by a stroke from Scot Stephen Gallacher.
The scoring was so that Lee Westwood’s 67 - the same as 56 year old Mark O’Meara - was not even good enough to put him in the top ten in his first competitive outing of the year.
O’Meara, who held off McGinley to win the title in 2004, said that Vijay Singh should be suspended by the PGA Tour after the Fijian admitted to using a spray which contains a banned substance.
“Probably he should be suspended for a couple of months, and I don’t know what the PGA Tour Commissioner is thinking, but people have had to pay the price before and he should be no different,” O’Meara told reporters.
“I was a bit surprised to hear what Vijay said. I don’t think he’s a guy that would take advantage of anything, and besides I like Vijay. I wish the best for him and his family and I wish the best for him.”
Singh withdrew from the Waste Management Phoenix Open earlier on Thursday.