Irish Open: Jordan Smith tied for the lead as Shane Lowry battles to make the cut
Watch the second round on Sky Sports Golf. Friday's live coverage from Galgorm Castle begins at 1pm
By Keith Jackson
Last Updated: 27/09/20 7:57pm
English duo Jordan Smith and Aaron Rai fired 65s to earn a share of the first-round lead with Dean Burmester at the Dubai Duty Free Irish Open at Galgorm Castle.
The trio lead the way on five under, one ahead of Toby Tree, but it was a tough homecoming for Shane Lowry as the reigning Open champion struggled in the cold and damp conditions in a five-over 75, while Padraig Harrington's first competitive round since March added up to 71.
Burmester set the early pace in tricky conditions, the South African appearing to be playing a different course to many of his rivals as he raced to the turn in 30 and then birdied the first three holes on the back nine to open up a five-shot lead on seven under.
But he was unable to scramble a par at the 17th where he "fell asleep" over a three-foot putt for bogey and ran up a six, and a closing par set the early mark at five under which was matched only by Smith and Rai, with only 22 players breaking the par of 70.
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Smith and Rai were the only two players in the 120-man field to keep a bogey off their cards, and Smith was feeling much happier with his game having admitted his form suffered during the UK Swing, when he had issues being confined to the European Tour's strict bio-secure bubble.
Smith played in all six UK events after competitive golf returned to the European Tour in July, and he conceded he should have had a week off.
"It was a long eight weeks," said Smith. "I should have taken off the second Celtic Manor tournament to break it up, and it just got to me a little bit. There wasn't any other reason apart from that I just didn't want to play golf.
"So last week I did nothing, put the clubs a way for a little bit, went and saw my coach and now I'm back on track. I saw my coach Monday before we flew out here and we had some good stuff going with what I needed to do with my swing."
Harrington decided to "give it a shot" having suffered a knee injury ahead of his long-awaited return to competition, and although a one-over round put him inside the top 40, he was disappointed with his score which included a bizarre double-bogey seven at the 10th, where he had to remove a loose tree to allow him a swing at his ball in the nettles.
"I wouldn't have taken a 71," said Harrington, who was expecting to be in Wisconsin this week leading Europe's defence of the Ryder Cup at Whistling Straits. "I want to go and win the tournament and it's hard to win the tournament when you're one over.
"But I really enjoyed today, really enjoyed being out there and having a game. It was messy in places, just clubbing - it doesn't matter what you do, you're just rusty out there, making decisions and some things didn't match up. But there was lots of good stuff and even the bad stuff, I just put down to rust, so I was more than happy with it."
There was not much for Lowry to feel positive about, however, as he made eight bogeys on a course just 30 miles from the scene of his memorable Open triumph at Royal Portrush last July.
"I just struggled today," said Lowry. "I pretty much did everything really badly today, from course management to decision making to actually pulling off the shots. It was not very nice out there, but I gave it my best, that's all I could have done, and it ended up in a 75.
"It's nice to birdie the last, and if I can go out a shoot a few under tomorrow, hopefully be here for the weekend and hopefully a couple more decent scores. First and foremost my goal tomorrow will be to make the weekend."