Shane Lowry turned his pre-tournament nerves into a massive plus thanks to a coffee break with his coach and roared into contention for The Open with a super 67.
The Clara ace (32) confessed he was feeling “uneasy” about the test this week, believing in his bones he was poised to put in a big performance but also anxious about how he could deliver.
But a pre-tournament coffee with his coach Neil Manchip proved to be just the pick-me-up Lowry needed and he put his first round Major blues behind him in spectacular fashion.
After following a first round 78 in the Masters with a pair of 75s in the US PGA and the US Open, he was thrilled to reverse that trend and make five birdies in a four-under par round to set the early pace.
“It's my best [first] round by about eight shots!” Lowry beamed. “That was nice. It was nice to shoot a good score and hopefully I can go out and keep at it the next few days.”
He confessed that he motored into Portrush feeling so good about his game that he was worried about how he could turn his great form into a great start in front of home fans.
“To be honest, I really was feeling a bit uneasy about this week yesterday, I'm not going to lie,” Lowry said.
"It was just a great chat and we said obviously it would be great to do well this week and great to contend, but it's not the end of the world if it doesn't happen.”
Asked to explain why he felt so uneasy, Lowry said: “It's the British Open, it's in Ireland. I'm playing well, I feel like I should come up and do well. Why shouldn't I feel uneasy?
“I'm sure there's plenty of golfers standing on the first tee feeling uneasy. You wouldn't be human if you weren't nervous or uneasy about playing in the biggest tournament in the world.
“I was probably as nervous as I've been in quite a while on the first tee, almost ever, I'd say.”
Lowry knows this Open is a special one for many reasons but he wants to make it extra special by winning his first Major on Irish soil.
“It's great to be here,” he said pointing out that the locals have gone wild for golf as The Open returns to Northern Ireland for. The first time since 1951.
“It's got the potential to be an unbelievable Open. Probably one of the best Opens I think. And I'm just hoping it's going to be special for me.”
Graeme McDowell looked poised to match Lowry’s 67 when he played his first 14 holes immaculately to get to three under but then followed three-putt bogeys at the 15th and 17th with a lost ball off the tee at the last and a triple bogey seven.
It turned a potential 68 into a 73 and while he was bitterly disappointed, he was happy to see pal Lowry start so well.
“Fantastic,” McDowell said of Lowry’s performance. “Listen, I've always thought Shane had kind of three big things going for him.
"Obviously he's a great driver of the ball; one of the best chippers of the ball I've ever seen; and he's got a lot of guts and determination.
“To win an Irish Open for an amateur speaks volumes of who he is and what he is.
"He's a good friend out here and I have a huge amount of respect for his game. He could easily continue this into the weekend and could easily contend here on Sunday afternoon. He has the game.”
As for his own woes, McDowell said: “Getting off that first tee this morning, I literally had a tear in my eye. It was kind of cool stuff.
“So to conduct myself as well as I did all day and play as well as I did all day, and then to finish like that, it hurts, you know, it hurts a lot. But it's golf. It's golf.
“Listen, you've got to take the rough with the smooth and that was rough. And hopefully some more smooth ahead.
“I am not let this spoil my week, because it could easily spoil my week. I feel like all the air has been let out of the sails plus some. The ship feels like it's sinking. It's not air out of the sails, it's everything.
“But it's important just to regroup. Got a big day tomorrow. Big weekend ahead. It’s important that I take the positives out of today. I played beautiful. I really gave myself so many looks today.”
As for his seven at the last, he was frustrated to find his ball 12 second outside the allotted three-minute search limit.
Asked about the change rule this year, reducing the search time from five minutes to three, he joked: “I thought it was a hell of a rule there until about 12 minutes ago.
“It’s amazing, five minutes feels like a long time when you're looking for a ball. And three minutes feels like no time at all. We had 30 people over there looking for that thing. 12 seconds after the 3 minutes was up we found it. We found my ball.”