Shane Lowry struggling with long game despite solid start in Florida

Reigning Open Champion Shane Lowry admits his long game isn’t where he wants it to be, but an improved display with the putter led him to an opening 67 at the Honda Classic.

The Irishman, who finished eighth at TPC Sawgrass last week, fired four birdies and one bogey en route to his 3-under-par round at PGA National and was pleased overall with his performance.

I obviously had a nice week at The Players last week and I felt like I put it out there for three out of four days,” said Lowry.

“It’s my long game that I don’t feel overly comfortable with. I mean, I missed a few fairways today but I was missing them in the right spots, and luckily this year there’s not much rough, and you can kind of get away with it a little bit.

“Yeah, I’m just kept going, keep plugging away. I feel like I’ve found something in my putting that I can work on and improve on, so hopefully I can keep getting better and keep shooting some decent scores.”

Australian Matt Jones sent statisticians scratching their heads with a 9-under-par 61 to lead, gaining 10.49 strokes on the field – the most strokes gained by a player in a single round so far this season.

Meanwhile a ‘drained’ Lee Westwood posted a level-par 70, off the back of two weeks in succession of contending in the final group and a two-day practice jaunt at Augusta National earlier this week.

“A week off would be nice,” joked the Englishman after his round. “But, not making any excuses, if you sign up to play a tournament, you try your hardest and you accept, you know, the kind of the shape that you’re in.”

Ryder Cup Captains Steve Stricker and Padraig Harrington had contrasting fortunes on the opening day.

American Stricker opened with a 4-under-par 66 to sit inside the top ten overnight while Harrington labored to a 2-over 72.

Harrington – a former winner of the event – made five birdies but offset those with the same number of bogeys and a double on his card.

Other big name Europeans who struggled included Henrik Stenson (78), Greame McDowell (79), Martin Kaymer (77), Luke Donald (76) and Rafa Cabrera Bello (75).

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