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Shane Lowry and Rory McIlroy reflect on contrasting fortunes at Players Championship

Lowry

It’s good to see Lowry challenging near the top of the leaderboard again.

There were vastly contrasting fortunes for the Irish contingent during Thursday’s opening round of The Players Championship at TPC Sawgrass.

While Rory McIlroy, defending the title he won in 2019, toiled during an opening 79, Shane Lowry showed signs of life after an indifferent run of form this year.

Coming off a missed cut at last week’s Arnold Palmer Invitational, Lowry demonstrated his razor-sharp short game during an impressive four-under 68.

2019 Open champion Lowry finished with a bogey, but despite that, the Clara native offered a positive assessment of his efforts during a tough day of scoring.

“I was happy, I think things have not gone great over the last few weeks, so it’s nice to go out there and shoot a decent score,” said Lowry, who is three shots adrift of overnight leader Sergio Garcia.

“I’m pretty happy. I didn’t do much different than I have been, holed a few putts that managed to go in. It was quite nice. Difficult golf course. I watched a bit of the golf this morning and I could see how difficult it was playing but that excites me.

Lowry

“That kind of gets me, gets my juices flowing, and I like that type of golf.”

The 33-year-old, who begins his second round at 12.51pm Irish time on Friday, added: “I love this golf course. This is one of the best we play. And when I arrived here, I missed Bay Hill and arrived here on Sunday, and I came out and did a bit of practice and I couldn’t believe the condition it was in.

“It’s one of the best conditioned golf courses I’ve ever seen. So credit to everyone involved. But, yeah, it’s nice to be out there.”

But while Lowry thrust himself into contention, McIlroy struggled massively during a seven-over par opening round, the nadir of which was a quadruple-bogey eight at the 18th, his ninth, after dumping two balls into the water.

“I mean obviously the big number on 18 didn’t help and then doubling the first wasn’t helpful either,” said McIlroy, who slipped out of the world’s top ten last week.

“So yeah, I just think just it’s hard to recover when you just haven’t played good. I mean regardless if you take that 18th hole out, it still wasn’t a very good day.”

Graeme McDowell was somewhat steadier as the 2010 US Open champion carded a one-over 73.

Playing with McIlroy, 2008 Players champion Garcia finished birdie-birdie-eagle to take control of the tournament.

Garcia is two ahead of Brian Harman, while England’s Matthew Fitzpatrick is among those at four-under with Lowry. Lee Westwood, who finished runner-up at Bay Hill last week, continued his fine form with a three-under 69, the same score as Bryson DeChambeau, the man who edged him out on Sunday.

Patrick Reed, Jordan Spieth and Jason Day are all two-under while 50-year-old Phil Mickelson is among those a shot further back.

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