Sport

Pep talk from coach inspires Shane Lowry to a fine 67

Shane Lowry held the clubhouse lead (67) for a large part of the first day at the 148th Open Championship, before American JB Holmes posted a 66 late in the day
From Paul Kelly at Royal Portrush

A PRE-TOURNAMENT pep talk with coach Neil Manchip propelled Shane Lowry to the top end of the leaderboard on day one of the Open Championship.

The 32-year-old, who posted a four-under par 67 in testing conditions at Royal Portrush admitted that the enormity of playing an Open in Ireland had started to weigh on his mind.

“I don't feel like practice went unbelievably well this week. I felt a little bit uncomfortable,” said Shane

“We went for a coffee yesterday down at the Bushmills Inn and we found a little quiet room, we had a great chat for about 40 minutes.

“I left that room full of confidence and ready to go. So we just put everything out in the open, everything out on the table, what could happen, what might happen.

“It's four-under today. I can get out there tomorrow and try to make a decent score.”

Lowry was the stand-out performer on a decidedly mixed day for the home contingent at Royal Portrush.

He added; “You really need to hit it in play out here. If you start finding the rough off the tee, you kind of start chasing it a little bit. On the downwind holes you need to be clever where you hit it, because the ball is going quite a long way downwind. You don't necessarily need to hit a lot of club off some tees. It's a course where I feel confident around here. Look, I've played all right here in the past.

A visibly emotional Darren Clarke, who hit the opening tee sheet at 6.35am, managed to keep enough control of his game to post a level-par 71.

“It was more emotional than I thought it was going to be, to be honest. I knew the golf course was going to be fabulous. It is a proper, fair test of golf. The scores are going to show that, not just today but at the end of the week. It was one of those things that I was very proud to be standing on that first tee hitting the first shot,” said Clarke.

He was joined on level-par by Mallow amateur, James Sugrue, who, having played alongside Clarke in the opening three-ball of the day, admitted to being decidedly nervous before hitting his first shot.

“I was definitely the most nervous I've ever been on the golf course this morning when I looked up at the grandstand and it was just packed. And Darren walked on in front of me and the roar was just unbelievable,” said the 22-year-old who booked his place in the field by winning the Amateur Championship at Portmarnock.

“I was very nervous for the first and the second. I birdied the second, it settled me a little bit. And I just enjoyed it really from there on in. I just didn't want to put myself out of the tournament on the first day, post a big number or something. Obviously, I bogeyed 16 and 17. They're playing tough, and I'm sure there will be a few bogeys there today. All in all, I'm fairly happy with the score.”

That was in stark contrast to three-time major champion, Padraig Harrington who posted a four-over 75.

“I had a nice start but I didn't play well after five,” said Padraig.

“So the course is set up nicely. It was very playable. There were a significant number of putts that didn't go in. And clearly, I lose momentum when it gets tougher after that. So it was a combination of a few weak shots and a few poor putts that didn't drop.”

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