PGA TOUR Release – 19 April 2019: A new putter and a new driver seemed to breathe new life into Shane Lowry’s game on Thursday at the RBC Heritage. Anirban Lahiri, back from a few weeks of training, made an opening round 72. At one over, he will have plenty to play for when they come out on Friday to split the field.
The Irishman admittedly had started the year off on a strong note with a win in Abu Dhabi in the season-opener on the European Tour. But he simply hadn’t been able to build on that momentum – on either side of the Atlantic — in the weeks following his third career win.
In fact, Lowry hadn’t broken 70 in four stroke-play events on the PGA TOUR since he missed the cut at the AT&T Pebble Beach Pro-Am back in February. He was a combined 24 over par in those tournaments and had only made the weekend once.
On a blustery morning at Harbour Town Golf Links, though, Lowry was back in control — firing a bogey-free 65 that earned him a one-stroke advantage.
“Pretty much my whole game felt good,” Lowry said. “… I haven’t had that feeling in a while. So, it’s kind of nice.”
He only needed to use that putter he put in his bag this week 27 times in the first round. Lowry took advantage of all three par-5s, too, getting up and down at each with birdie putts in the 3-foot range. His other birdie putts ranged from 8 to 19 feet.
“It was something I’ve been struggling with — my par-5 scoring hasn’t been very good,” Lowry said. “I just played them nicely today. I struggled off the tee quite a bit this year, and I managed to find a new driver that I like. I hit that pretty good. And when you do that on par-5s it always gives yourself a chance.”
Finding the right driver has been a work in progress for Lowry, who even in that early victory struggled off the tee – hitting just four fairways as he shot a course-record 62 in the first round in Abu Dhabi.
Lowry estimated he tried 30 different drivers this year before settling on the Srixon one he first used at the Masters and liked so much that it earned another spot in his bag this week.
“We’ve done a lot of work and I managed to find one I like and feel like I can trust it there,” Lowry said. “So, hopefully it keeps going. Today was the first day that I hit the ball well off the tee. So even it felt okay last week in Augusta, but today was the first real day.”
Lowry hit 13 of 14 fairways in the first round and 14 of 18 greens in regulation, scrambling successfully for par on the ones he missed. Not surprisingly, then, he ranked in the top three in Strokes Gained: Off-the-Tee, Tee-to-Green and Around-the-Green.
“I’m happy with my golf,” Lowry said. “My scores haven’t been great as of late. But I felt like I’ve been playing okay. So maybe this is a reward for the perseverance.”
Lowry has only played the RBC Heritage once previously, finishing tied for 44th in 2017. But he had some success that week – opening with a 66 before giving all that back with a 75 in the second round and eventually finishing 2 under for the week.
“It’s just difficult,” Lowry said of the Pete Dye creation. “And if you’re 7- or 8-under going into Sunday, you’re going to have a chance to win the tournament, I think. And that’s kind of the way this course plays. You just need to be as patient as you can.
“A couple of years ago I got off to a good start and I maybe tried to force it a little bit. So just try to stay patient the next few days. I enjoyed today. It’s nice to shoot a good score. And it’s my first good score in a few weeks. So just enjoy that and just get out there tomorrow and get after it.”
Friday figures to be a challenge for everyone but particularly those with afternoon tee times when winds of 20-30 mph, gusting to 40, are expected and severe thunderstorms are possible.
“You know the forecast is not going to be great,” Lowry said. “Yeah, I’ve seen it and knew this was my chance to go out and shoot a good number.”