Who would you rather be - the beaming Offaly man who’s just shot 64 to turn his season around or the wan-looking Holywood lad, who looked more like death warmed up 24 hours after going public with his wedding-killer bombshell?
Egged on by a typically compassionate British crown as he put his personal troubles aside to cruise around in a pretty effortless looking 68, McIlroy made two eagles, holing a wedge at the seventh and nearly holing a seven iron at the 12th to end the day six shots behind Thomas Bjorn on four under.
The Dane’s 10 under par, course record 62 was obviously the round of the morning but only by two shots from Lowry, who had to come off the course for lightning before eventually signing for a 10-birdie 64 and solo second place on eight under par.
Like McIlroy, Lowry loves his life away from the course and the chance to be one of the lads. Unlike Rory, he's got the freedom to pull it off effortlessly.
it's far tougher for McIlroy and one wonders which way he will go after this latest setback. Ireland is out of bounds given his celebrity, though we do love to ignore the rich and famous, or at least, we like to pretend we do.
There was a wonderful anecdote circulating about Lowry and McIlroy for a while before Lowry ruined it by insisting it simply wasn’t true. Anyway, as an apocryphal story, it says it all about Irish attitudes to celebrity.
The yarn goes that McIlroy is down in Clara with his former amateur team mate to visit Granny Lowry. She’s sitting by the fire, which is dying, and gestures to the coal scuttle.
“Go on son,’ she says to McIlroy as Lowry makes tea out in the back somewhere. “Go out to that shed like a good lad and bring in a bucket of coal. Shane has to be careful of his hands for the golf.”
Despite all that’s happened between Lowry’s management stable and McIlroy over the past year, the Clara man has made sure he’s stayed well out of it, publicly at least. He’s a friend and McIlroy will emerge from his current plight as he has from so many other difficulties in the course of his short career.
Guys like Lowry, not to mention his parents, his team and the rest of the European Tour fraternity will rally round him and even if he does fade away from pure mental exhaustion over the next few days, he’s certainly become a more human and engaging figure through all this public exposure.
People cry out for real sportsmen who give real answers. This is soap opera stuff being played out on your TV.
Lowry made headlines last year when he beat a misfiring McIlroy in the first round of the Accenture Match Play in Tucson and even pelted him with a snowballl during the delay.
But he knows he’s not living or playing on the same planet.
“I couldn’t believe how good he was and I was playing well at the time,” Lowry said last year, recalling his he was totally demoralised after playing a practice round with McIlroy on his US Open debut at Congressional, which the Ulsterman would win by eight shots. “When I came off the course, I went back to the house and I remember saying to Graeme [McDowell], ‘I have to stop playing practice rounds with him when he is playing well.’
"You walk off feeling inferior really and you are trying to play against him that week. He was just how long and straight he was hitting it and how under control he had his golf ball. He obviously doesn’t have that now. But as I have said to everyone, I have no doubt that he will come out all guns blazing next year.”
McIlroy’s guns have blazed intermittently this year but there was no sparkle in the eye as he trooped off after his 68 and answered more questions about calling off his wedding with Caroline Wozniacki.
“It was a good day. I played well. Hit a lot of solid shots,” he said before the wedding questions started. “The two eagles helped, obviously, and it's a good round for me around this place. It's a place I've notoriously struggled on in the past, but it was good to shoot something in the 60s and I'm looking forward to getting back out on to the golf course tomorrow and doing that again.”
Must have been tough Rory, he's asked.
“Yeah, I think it's only natural. I don't think you'd be a human being if it wasn't tough, especially when it's a little slow out there and we were walking in between shots. But once I had my mind focused on the task at hand, it made it a little easier.
"But yeah, I knew; I admitted that yesterday, that it was going to be a tough week for me, and if I can just keep my mind busy and just concentrate on my golf and my gym work and just keep myself going throughout the week, then hopefully make it a bit better for myself.”
He was inevitably asked why he had decided to go public when he could have kept the news quiet or even refused to answer questions in the press conference. Has Sergio Garcia been in touch with advice?
“No, I haven't -- I saw him a couple of days ago. I haven't turned on my phone for a few days and I've given my laptop away. I'm sort of living like I'm in the 70s again, 60s,” he said. “Look, everyone goes through it. It's part of life and it's tough. It's the way it is. You know, people that have come up to me have been very supportive and it's been nice.”
European Ryder Cup skipper Paul McGinley said as much.
“You know what, it’s life,” McGinley said. “If you are going to be a professional golfer for 40 years, life happens. Things happen - marriages, break ups, deaths - all these things happen. Rory has got to deal with it at a very young age but most people have to too. Life carries on. It’s not just all about golf.”
Asked if he really had to put himself through that tortuous process in Wednesday’s media conference, McIlroy said: ”I guess it was played out in the media so much that it was probably the best way to do it. It would be -- it was just a natural thing to do I guess.”
“Are you sleeping well? Does it affect you that way?” he was asked.
“ Yeah, it's -- I mean, it's tough. It's a tough week and I'm not really that comfortable standing here talking about it.”
McIlroy ended the day tied for eighth, one stroke better than a resurgent Pádraig Harrington (69) with Michael Hoey and Damien McGrane tied 35th after 71s, McGinley and Thornton (74 each) 101st, Darren Clarke and Peter Lawrie (75s) 111th, Gareth Maybin (77) 130th and Damian Mooney six over with one hole to complete this morning.
As for Lowry, he was simply sublime in every department. Naturally, he was ecstatic.
“Any time you shoot in the low 60s around Wentworth, it's a good day,” he said. I love it around here.
“I played nicely and I holed a few putts. It's nice to get off to a good start. I kind of missed my drive down the first, missed it a little bit and had a lovely shot into about eight feet and holed that.
“A nice way to get going and birdied the second, as well, and was off and running then. As I said, I holed a few putts and I played okay, hit some good shots and got around nicely.
“I've been struggling a bit so far this year. My best finish was last week, tied 15th. Other than that, I've missed a few cuts and haven't really been putting that well. But managed to find something at home a couple weeks ago and hopefully I will keep it going.”