PONTE VEDRA BEACH, Fla. – Apparently Rickie Fowler isn’t the only player who has solved the back nine at TPC Sawgrass.
Shane Lowry made the turn in even par Thursday before lighting up the Stadium Course’s inward half, coming home in 7-under 29. That gave him an opening round of 65 at The Players Championship and put him two shots behind the early pace set by world No. 1 Jason Day.
It also marked a tournament record for back-nine scoring, a feat that surprised even the Irishman given the self-described “meltdown” he suffered during practice the day prior.
“I was just, I almost wasn’t looking forward to the week,” Lowry said. “I just, I was losing the head. I was like almost thinking, what’s the point of being here, because I felt like I was playing poorly and I was struggling on the greens.”
Lowry received a tip from Graeme McDowell that began paying immediate dividends, and he showed no signs of inner turmoil during a blistering close to his round. Lowry played Nos. 10-13 in 5 under, highlighted by an eagle on the par-5 11th, then curled in a 13-foot birdie putt on No. 18 to close his round.
“Managed to hole a few putts, which is key for me,” he said. “Something I haven’t been doing recently, so it was nice.”
Lowry earned his maiden PGA Tour title last year at the WGC-Bridgestone Invitational, but it remains to be seen if he’ll return to Akron to defend. The tournament this year is opposite the European Tour’s Open de France, and only the latter event will offer Ryder Cup points for European players.
Several notable Europeans, including Rory McIlroy, have already declared that they’ll tee it up in Paris, but Lowry said he hasn’t yet made up his mind.
“We’ll have to see where I’m sitting on the Race to Dubai or Ryder Cup. Ryder Cup rankings is kind of big, but I’m a long way off that team as it is,” he said. “I really want to go back and defend, and I’m kind of sort of 75-25 percent now whether I will or not.”