Lowry drives into contention but G-Mac cut up

Shane Lowry in action in round one at Hoylake. Picture Fran Caffrey, www.golffile.ie

Shane Lowry got a little hot under the collar and cooked up a sizzling 68 to keep Rory McIlroy in his sights with a brilliant afternoon show.

The Clara ace, 27, got angry on the 10th and started to rack up the birdies to match world No 1 Adam Scott with the best round of the afternoon starters with the best back nine of the — a five under 32.

He ended the day tied for third with the Aussie, American Brooks Koepka, the Molinari brothers Francesco and Eduardo and Ryder Cup stars Jim Furyk and Sergio Garcia.

And after cooking up a barbecue for his family on Wednesday night, he’s now licking his lips at the prospect of challenging for a major title.

Thrilled to get the rewards for some gutsy play with his driver, Lowry said: “I feel I am well able to compete this weekend and I wouldn’t be here if I didn’t think I could.

“I like the golf course because it’s a course you have to take on in spots. You have to play conservatively at times but if you take it on, it gives you some chances. 

“I took it on in the back nine today and had a lot of chances and I managed to shoot a decent score.

“But listen there's a long way to yet, it's going to be a long three days so I just have to go back, have some dinner and go to bed, and see what happens tomorrow.”

Lowry was one over par heading into the back nine but gave himself a talking to, took out his driver and scorched home in 32 thanks to four birdies in five holes after the turn and a closing birdie four at the 18th.

He said: “I hit a bad drive down 10 and I was losing my cool a little bit. I was giving myself a bit of a talking to and a birdie there really settled me down.”

He then birdied the 11th from 10 feet, the 12th from eight feet and the 14th from 30 feet to surge up the leaderboard and after narrowly missing chances at the 15th an 16th, he hit two great shots to the 18th before two-putting for his sixth birdie of the day. 

He had no plans to cook again last night but looking across to his family, he joked: “Everyone out there is okay so no-one's been struck down by any food poisoning.”

While Lowry is looking good, Darren Clarke, Pádraig Harrington, Graeme McDowell, Michael Hoey and amateur Paul Dunne have work to do to make the cut.

McDowell and Harrington were the most disappointed on a day when Hoey shot 75 with a three-putt bogey at the 13th leading to three dropped shots in a row.

Undone by a double bogey seven at the 10th, where his second shot hit a marshal and ricocheted into a bush from where he had to take a penalty drop, McDowell said: “I'm not really controlling my ball flight the way I need to. I can't hit a cut at all.

“My cut is non-existent at the minute and it's very difficult to play links golf when you're not able to shape it both ways, especially when you the greens are as firm as this.”

As for his double at the 10th, he said: “I couldn't get a straight answer out of the guy. I asked him 'did that ball hit you' he said 'it's over there in that bush'. So I don't know.

“Okay. So it wasn't really great from there. But it was just one of those days. Shit happens, we'll be back tomorrow." 

“The toys are not coming out of the pram. It's just one round, I didn't hit the fairways enough. I’d be very frustrated if I thought there were three more days of this type of weather to come but I can't get down on myself.

“I've got to get back out there tomorrow and try and get myself back in this event.

“I know I'm good enough to get back out there tomorrow and do something, I just need to get a little bit more feeling in my swing and understand what I'm trying to do out there but it's all right, it's all good.”

Hoey and Greystones amateur Dunne both struggled coming in and signed for three over 75s.

Paul Dunne and his father Collie weigh up their options. Picture Fran Caffrey, www.golffile.ie

Dunne played the first 12 in level par but then bogeyed the 13th, 15th and 18th but he's still hoping to make the cut and challenge for the silver medal.

"A lot of people from my home club were here so I had a lot of support, which was brilliant," he said.

Asked if he had much adrenaline on the first tee, he said: "Not as much as I thought. Just some first tee nerves with the tournament that was in it. But I was fine when I got going.

"There was no crazy highlight today. I didn't hit any brilliant shots. I was playing quite steady for the first 12 and the finish was disappointing but hopefully I can improve on it tomorrow."

"It was great to have the support out there to keep me going. I just need to hit better iron shots. tomorrow.

"My main goal is to make the cut so I am going to go and see if I can improve tomorrow and stay around for the weekend.

“I missed a lot of greens on the back nine  and left myself in tough spots to get up and down. Hopefully I can hit my irons a little better tomorrow and keep my ball in play like I did today and shoot a good score.

“I think the weather is going to be pretty rough so anything around par tomorrow will be quite good, I think."

Incredibly, Dunne has been named on the Leinster team for the Interpros, despite playing his ninth event in as many weeks.

"I haven't decided yet," he said on his presence being required at The Island — a ludicrous decision by the selectors." Nine weeks in a row. I will reassess after this week."

Hoey was one under after a birdie at the fifth but bogeyed the seventh and then came undone with three bogeys in a row from the 13th, where he three-putted, knocking a 25 foot downhill putt nine feet past.

"I just got on the bogey train there. I had a downwind putt on the par three and hit it far too hard. It was tough. I was trying to stay quite relaxed out there but I got a little bit excited on that par three. 

"Poor tee shot on the next (14, bogey) wind didnt hit it and it ended up nearly unplayable in the bunker. The same on 18, hit a really good second shot that did a slingshot in the bunker and left me absoutely no third shot. I was quite unlucky because you can be totally unplayable and make triple from the bunkers. There is too much sand but that is the way they want it. It is a hazard. 

"On 15 the wind didn't hit my ball and it didn't straighten.

"I am not far away but I need to relax a little bit tomorrow and hole a couple of putts. I can still make the cut. I actually played quite good and I was happy enough with my play until that three putt."

Having missed the cut in his two previous appearances, Hoey was disappointed but he was looking at the positives.

"I was going well and under par, which I had never been in an Open," he said. "I had always shot millions at the start before so it was definitely an improvement. I shot something like 80 at Lytham so I am not that far away. One shot moves you up around 30 positions. 

"If I play to my potential tomorrow I can definitely make the cut. It will be difficult so let's see if I can get some momentum by holing a couple of putts."

How the Irish fared

  • 1 Rory McIlroy 66 (-6) F'ways 9/Rank 60; Greens 14/rank 11; Putts 27/Rank 9; Birdies 6/Rank 3; Drive 340.5/Rank 1.
  • T3 Shane Lowry 68 (-4) F'ways 10/Rank 33; Greens 14/Rank 11; Putts 29/Rank 42; Birdies 6/Rank 3; Drive 278.5/Rank 87
  • T49 Darren Clarke 72 (Ev) F'ways 10/Rank 33; Greens 10/Rank 93; Putts 27/Rank 9; Birdies 4/Rank 21; Drive 273.5/Rank 110
  • T84 Pádraig Harrington 74 (+2) F'ways 7/Rank 124; Greens 8/Rank 130; Putts 29/Rank 42; Birdies 2/Rank 92; Drive 274.0/Rank 107
  • T84 Graeme McDowell 74 (+2) F'ways 8/Rank 92; Greens 9/118; Putts 29/Rank 42; Birdies 2/Rank 92; Drive 266.0/Rank 131
  • T105 Michael Hoey 75 (+3) F'ways 11/Rank 12; Greens 12/Rank 11; Putts 32/Rank 118; Birdies 2/Rank 92; Drive 296.0/Rank 24
  • T105 Paul Dunne (a) 75 (+3) F'ways 11/Rank 12; Greens 6/Rank 151; Putts 28/Rank 27; Birdies 2/Rank 92; Drive 263.5/Rank 138