Lowry fires 69 in Phoenix as Harrington struggles
 Matt Kuchar

Matt Kuchar

Shane Lowry might have started and finished with bogeys but he knocked more rust off his game and carded a two-under 69 to trail Matt Kuchar by five strokes after the opening round of the Waste Management Phoenix Open.

The 29-year old was certainly effective for at least half his round, shrugging off his bogey at the opening hole by playing his next nine holes in four-under par.

It was ball-striking rather than great putting that catapulted Lowry into the top ten before the birdies dried up.

He missed just three greens all day but didn't always hit the ball close and ended up making his lone three-putt of the day at the 18th, where he came up four feet short with his 25-footer for birdie.

Lowry is tied for 28th, five shots behind Kuchar, who hit 12 of 14 fairways and 16 of 18 green as he made an eagle and five birdies in a 64 — his first competitive round of 2017 — to lead by a shot from Hideki Matsuyama and Brendan Steele. 

Pádraig Harrington, who was unable to practice this week having been forced to get a pain-relieving injection in his neck on Sunday, is tied 78th after a one-over 72.

The Dubliner had the treatment to ease the trapped nerve that has been bothering him for a fortnight and prevented him from generating much power off the tee at Torrey Pines.

He was well below his best again from tee to green last night, but unlike at the Farmers Insurance Open, where his putting saved his blushes at times, he three-putted twice in a 32-putt round that likely leaves him needing a sub-70 second round to make his first cut of the year.

The longest putt Harrington holed was a seven-footer for his par five at the 15th, his sixth, where he splashed down in a lake before getting up and down from 80 yards.

Harrington had already three-putted his third hole from 43 feet for bogey.

But he then holed a five-footer for his only birdie of the day at the par-five 13th, saved par from a similar distance at the next before turning for home in level par.

He would hit just two fairways coming home, however, and dropped another shot at the sixth, where he raced a 22-foot birdie putt six feet past.