Tuesday, July 16, 2024

Lowry and McIlroy fire 61 to share Zurich Classic lead – News – Irish Golf Desk

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Rory McIlroy and Shane Lowry fed off each other and played the carefree of their amateur days to blast 11-under 61 and grab a share of the lead in the Zurich Classic of New Orleans.

McIlroy was making his debut in the event at TPC Louisiana and while he’s struggled of late, he was close to his best as the Irish duo birdied the first four holes and never looked back.

They added further birdies at the seventh, eighth and 10th and followed three in a row from the 12th with a closing birdie four.

It all added up to a betterball 61, which left them in a four-way tie for the lead with Mark Hubbard and Ryan Brehm, Ben Kohles and Patton Kizzire and Aaron Rai and David Lipsky.

“Any day you go out and play the round of golf we did, you’re going to have a good time,” Lowry said. 

“We enjoyed it. We both played nice golf. We both made some nice birdies and contributed to the team, and I think we’re very happy with the day, and quick turnaround before tomorrow.

“Looking forward to getting out in foursomes tomorrow. Should be fun, as well. It’s a format that’s tougher, but it is an enjoyable format.”

McIlroy and Lowry started the day 11 shots off the lead, but the Holywood star was pleased they got off to a fast start and built on that momentum.

“You know that you need to get off to a good start, and thankfully we did,” McIlroy said.

“We were four-under through four, which was really nice to see, and from there, you’ve got some momentum, and you’re just trying to keep it going.

“But for the most part today, we kept both balls in play. We were having two looks basically on every hole at birdie, and that’s the way you need to play better ball.

“Everyone thinks it’s maybe a bit more gung ho than that, but as long as you have two balls in play off the tee, two balls on the green, I think you’re always going to do pretty well in this format.”

Lowry is looking forward to the foursomes early today after dealing with some challenging course conditions late in the day.

“There’s a lot of grain around the holes, and it’s tricky to read in places,” he said. “It’s friendly-ish off the tee. You’ve got to get it in play. But it can get tricky. 

“But when you play good golf, which is what we did today, it doesn’t feel like that. It might look like that at times. I thought the course played tricky enough, but we played it very well.”

As for McIlroy, he was pleased he decided to play the event for the first time.

“It’s nice to come here, team up with a really good friend, and if we play a good round tomorrow, it’ll be awesome to be in contention for the weekend and try to get a win on the PGA TOUR with a friend beside me,” he said. 

“Looking forward to it.”

Lowry was certainly pleased to have the world number two by his side.

“I definitely felt today I was less hard on myself than I’ve been in the last few weeks when I hit a couple of bad shots,” he said. 

“It’s nice to know you’ve got Rory McIlroy backing you up. But yeah, I definitely feel like there’s a nice vibe out there with the two of us. 

“We know each other’s games so well. We’ve played a lot of golf. We play a lot of golf at home together, and we just know each other so well. Yeah, it’s nice being out there.”

Davis Thompson and Andrew Novak, European duo Thomas Detry and Robert MacIntyre and Cameron Champ and MJ Daffue were a shot behind in a tie for fifth, while Paul Barjon and Sam Stevens survived a meeting with a three-legged alligator to shoot 63 and sit in a 13-team logjam for eighth.

They were playing alongside Jhonattan Vegas and Bronson Burgoon when the alligator crossed roughly three feet in front of the tee box at the par-three 17th and they had to wait seven minutes for it to pass.

Meadow eight back in LA

On the LPGA Tour, Stephanie Meadow made 17 pars and a bogey in a one-over 72 to share 60th after the opening round of the JM Eagle LA Championship at Wilshire Country Club.

She’s eight shots behind Grace Kim, who shot a seven-under 64 to lead by a shot from Sweden’s Maja Stark, Thailand’s Chanettee Wannasaen and Korea’s Sei Young Kim.

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