What’s that about patience being a virtue? Shane Lowry allowed himself a wry grin as he walked in a 12-foot putt on the sixth green – his 15th hole of the round – for a birdie, as finally his putter, an alien object for much of the round, obeyed his command and that piece of magic was followed by another from 22 feet on the next hole as a late rally enabled the world number 20 to open the Honda Classic at Palm Beach Gardens in Florida with a strong two-under-par 68.
In a round where Lowry was majestic off the tee and found 17 of 18 greens in regulation, putting had proven to be the one weak area in his game (he totalled 31 putts in all) until that late salvo moved him up the leaderboard to lie three shots off the pace of early clubhouse leaders Joseph Bramlett and Billy Horschel.
Certainly Lowry’s patience on the greens was ultimately rewarded as the Offaly golfer stuck to his task. “I played nice. I didn’t hole as many putts as I would have like. I felt I could have shot a couple better but I’m happy overall,” he said.
As close as you can get without going in.@ShaneLowryGolf scares the hole at No. 17. pic.twitter.com/ZQco7DGgkD— PGA TOUR (@PGATOUR) February 23, 2023
Lowry, who started on the 10th with a bogey, birdied the 13th and 17th holes (where he hit a 9-iron tee-shot inside a foot of the hole) to turn in one-under only to bogey the second after finding a fairway bunker and hitting his approach short of the green (the only one he missed in regulation all day) and failing to get up and down to save his par.
However, that late birdie salvo moved Lowry in the right direction.
Of his struggles on the greens, Lowry said: “There’s a lot more grass on them than I remember here. They’re very grainy. I know in our group we all struggled with the pace of the greens. It was hard when you’re 20 feet and you don’t want to leave yourself too many three-, four-, five-footers with a lot of grain around the hole. So you’re just trying to drop them in from 20 feet. It was quite hard to judge the pace.”
Another pleasing aspect for Lowry was the developing relationship with new caddie Darren Reynolds. The pair’s first week together resulted in a missed cut in the Phoenix Open but Lowry claimed a tied-14th finish in the Genesis Invitational and there was further good vibes in the start to the Honda.
“Darren and I are getting on well. I like the way we’re working. Obviously our first week wasn’t the best start, but things have been going well the last couple of weeks and long may it continue,” said Lowry who is playing for a fifth week in six and will extend his hectic itinerary at next week’s Arnold Palmer Invitational and the following week’s The Players.