Golf is a mysterious beast at times but for Shane Lowry and Paul Dunne the fine line between the sublime and the ridiculous blurred a little in the first round of The Open.
Blue skies, a light breeze and sparkling sunshine invited optimism for the man who almost won the US Open a few weeks ago and also for the rookie who led last year’s Open Championship with a round to go when still an amateur.
Both have touched the Holy Grail and had it cruelly snatched from their lips. Yesterday, the golfing gods simply laughed hard in their faces.
As Dunne shot a six over 77 that left him utterly demoralised, Lowry was so ill at ease with his game - he hit just five fairways — that he signed for a seven over 78 and confessed afterwards that he realised standing on the 11th tee that he had no idea where the ball was going. (And it was mainly going right).
“I just wanted the ground to open up and swallow me,” he said.
A shock to the system?
“Yes, yes, it was,” Lowry said after a round featuring one birdie, six bogeys and a double bogey six at the 12th. “I was playing absolutely fine in practice, it just came out of nowhere. It is hard. It is disappointing. It is just so, so disappointing.
“I’ve built myself up for a few weeks for this, really looking forward to get out there, nice weather, it was easy.
“I just felt so uncomfortable out there, drove the ball really poorly for me. I can’t remember the last time I drove the ball like that, one of those things, nothing really went for me.”
After a bogey at the second, where he came up short in a greenside trap, Lowry dropped another shot at the par-three fifth, then followed his lone birdie at the ninth with a wayward passage of driving that cost him four shots with a bogey-bogey-double bogey start to the second nine.
The Offaly man closed with back to back bogeys for a 78 - his highest score in an open by three shots.
Was it like hitting a wall?
“Certainly the last part of my round, I felt quite weird, it’s hard to describe it,” he said. “I just wanted the ground to open up and swallow me to be honest. That’s the way I was feeling. I didn’t think I was going to hit a good shot, which was weird.
“I stood on the 11th tee and I said to Dermot, ‘I actually don’t know where this is going’. It is the hardest tee shot in the world, it’s not a nice place to be in, and you feel as if you have the whole world watching.”
Lowry appeared to hit some decent shots on the range after lunch but he may need a miracle now to make the cut and he admitted that he’s looking forward to taking three weeks off after the US PGA in a fortnight.
“I hit some shots there (on the range), hit them nicely, felt like I had something but I thought I had it yesterday as well too,” he said. “I need a really good score tomorrow…
“It is looking like I’m going to be going home at the week, but I will go out and give it a go. The thing was, I was proud of myself the way I tried 100 per cent on every shot coming in.
“That’s the only thing I can say, there’s not many positives. In fact there’s probably none to take out of the round. I’ll try and regroup and go out and shoot a score.”
Asked if there might have been a hangover effect from the US Open, he said: “No, not at all. Maybe trying a bit hard, but I don’t think I was. I didn’t do too much the last few days, I wasn’t trying to force it.
“I was having lunch with [coach] Neil [Manchip] there and saying I feel like the game just keeps disappointing me week after week.
“Look, the best week of my life was only a few weeks ago yet it was one of the most disappointing for me.
“This game is just.....I’d just like a few weeks off. I’m taking three after the PGA. I’ll try to shoot a score tomorrow, if I don’t I’ll go home and try to chill out.”
Graeme McDowell also had a disappointing day, following a birdie at the first with three bogeys and a double bogey at the blind 10th for a four over 75 that featured 33 putts.
Dunne had 34 putts in his round and his disappointment with his six over 77 contrasted hugely with his delight at St Andrews last year, when he shared the final round lead as an amateur.
Asked the difference a year makes, he said: “I was just playing better. I could have told you coming into the week last year I was going to do okay.
“And I could have told you two days ago that I was going to play badly today. That’s the way it goes.”
One under to the turn and struggling with his game for months, he came home in seven over 42 for a 77 that leaves him facing his fifth missed cut in six starts.
“I played okay on the front nine but it wasn’t hard to,” he said. “It was five iron wedge on every hole. Then when I turned on the back nine into the wind, I kind of got found out.
“I have been playing rubbish for the last month anyway so it’s kind of a continuation of what has been happening.
“I think if I miss the cut here it will be something like six out of seven cuts, which is pretty pathetic.”
Darren Clarke, the 2011 Open champion, showed a rare glimpse of form with a level par 71.
"I left a few chances out there on the front nine but played solidly coming in,” Clarke said after four birdies and four bogeys. “I felt I needed to get under par in the conditions and I’m little disappointed that I didn’t.”