Lowry “happy as Larry" as Harrington and Dunne battle issues
 pectators during the first round of the 100th PGA Championship held at Bellerive Golf Club on August 09, 2018 in St. Louis, Missouri. (Photo by Montana Pritchard/PGA of America)

pectators during the first round of the 100th PGA Championship held at Bellerive Golf Club on August 09, 2018 in St. Louis, Missouri. (Photo by Montana Pritchard/PGA of America)

Shane Lowry was “as happy as Larry” after opening with one-under 69 in the US PGA.

The Offaly star has hit the reset button since The Open and with his brother Alan standing in as caddie, he cruised serenely around Bellerive Country Club and responded perfectly to his only moment of crisis to get his major quest off to a solid start.

As Pádraig Harrington played good golf from tee to green but struggled with the putter to card a 71 and Paul Dunne hit just four fairways and bogeyed his last two holes for a three-over 73, Lowry was on cruise control all day.

Playing well within himself, he was neat and tidy for the first five holes before he popped up near the top of the leaderboard, hitting baby fade down the stick to eight feet at the 221 yard sixth.

That four-iron got him up and running and while he followed a tasty eight-footer for a birdie four at the eighth with a three-putt from nowhere at the ninth after getting out of position in fairway sand from the tee, the key to his round wasn’t the nine footer he made for a birdie four at the 17th but the one he made for a bogey three holes earlier.

After a rare hook into the trees forced to him to take a penalty drop, but after dropping back in line with the flag, he got up and down from just short of the green for his five.

“That was my round there,” the Clara man said. “That's the type of stuff that hasn't been going my way the past few months. But I knocked that in and birdied 17 and shoot one under and I am happy as Larry here.

"I played nicely and hit some lovely shots coming in, some nice irons shots and nice drives. So I am happy."

While many were surprised that the scoring wasn’t lower, Lowry felt the pins were tricky, many of then cut “on a lot of knobs and slopes.”

Normally when I am doing interviews with you lads, I have my bottom lip hanging out.
— Shane Lowry

The slopes on the 221-yard sixth weren’t an issue as he hit a trademark four iron to eight feet.

“That was the shot of the day by far,” he said. “I had 221 and hit a hit cut four iron straight down the flag. It was one of those ones you don't have to talk to it. 

"So to hit the shot and then go up and knock it in was nice. I felt good all day."

Asked the last time he felt as happy, he said: “It’s been a while since I've felt this content about it. Normally when I am doing interviews with you lads, I have my bottom lip hanging out.”

He hit 11 of 14 fairways and missed just two greens, taking 32 putts.

PGA Championship

But while Harrington also had 32 putts, he missed six inside 10 feet in his 71 and was ranked 149th out of 156 for strokes gained putting.

“I struggled a bit with the pace,” the Dubliner said after mixing birdies at the second and 11th with bogeys at the sixth, seventh and 12th. 

“A few of the longer putts you have got to hit them hard; and then, the shorter ones, I must have missed half a dozen short putts. That’s a lot.

“Those greens are lovely for holing putts, the ball sticks to the grass nicely I just hit a few bad putts and hit a few good ones that didn’t go in and you are in a lot of doubt. It is hard to get it in the hole at that stage.”

The doubts he has are a result of going from slow links greens to quick surfaces in Canada and Reno before going back to slower greens this week. 

"I seem to be decelerating on them because they were relatively fast and now we are back slow again," Harrington said, adding that technically he's "moving on them" too.

Asked if he was optimistic about today given his ball striking — 13th for strokes gained from tee to green, he had just one mantra.

"I need to practice my putting," he said. And he said it more than once.

The Dubliner was surprised that the scoring was so moderate — three under was leading before Rickie Fowler came in just behind him — and blamed major-itis.

“Shocked,” he said. “The pins are very easy, easy pins all day. I was surprised, really thought they would set it up much tougher. 

“I looked up at one stage expecting to see somebody at six or seven.....In a regular event it would, that’s what’s holding people back.”

As it turned out, the six-under round came late in the day.

As for Dunne, he made three good par save him his first five holes, birdied the tough fifth but bogeyed the seventh and hit just four fairways all day.

While he got away with a push into trouble ninth, holing a 33-footer for par there, he bogeyed the 10th and then found water off the tee on the 17th and rough on the last to finish with back-to-back bogeys for his 73.

He can console himself with the thought that if he gets his swing back on track, his putting hasn;t gone away. He was sixth for strokes gained putting.