With carnage all around him, Rickie Fowler kept things steady en route to an even-par 71 in the opening round of the Irish Open.
Fowler is making his first start since a dramatic playoff victory at The Players Championship, and he started in style with birdies on Nos. 10 and 11, his first two holes of the day. His card ultimately included four birdies against four bogeys, putting him two shots off the early pace amid blustery conditions at Royal County Down.
Fowler's score was even more impressive within the context of his marquee grouping. He played the first round alongside world No. 1 Rory McIlroy, who shot an 80, and reigning U.S. Open champ Martin Kaymer, who shot a 79. Neither McIlroy nor Kaymer made a birdie during their opening rounds.
Fowler had no such issues, making his return to Royal County Down after helping the U.S. to victory at the 2007 Walker Cup over a Great Britain & Ireland squad that included McIlroy. While he reached only seven greens in regulation, he converted seven of his 11 scrambling opportunities and needed only 27 putts to complete his round.