Shane Lowry and Graeme McDowell flying high after first round in Canada
By Keith Jackson
Last Updated: 07/06/19 12:07am
Shane Lowry and Graeme McDowell enjoyed superb starts to the RBC Canadian Open as Keegan Bradley claimed the outright lead after a low-scoring first day in Hamilton.
Bradley's seven-under 63 ensured the overnight lead while Lowry led the chasing pack, but Rory McIlroy was frustrated with "only" a 67 on his debut in the event and Brooks Koepka and Dustin Johnson were among the elite stars to endure low-key opening rounds.
With most of the better scores coming in the cooler, early conditions, Bradley got off to a quiet start with six pars before a birdie at the seventh marked the first of five in a row around the turn, the American peppering the pins and capping his run with a 12-foot putt for a three at the 11th.
Bradley converted another chance from similar range at the 13th, and his seventh gain of the day at the long 17th earned him the clubhouse lead which held up for the remainder of the day.
Lowry also made hay early on and picked up early shots at the third and fourth before taking a step back when he needed three to get down from the fringe at the seventh, although he responded with three birdies in four holes from the ninth.
The Irishman also holed from 25 feet for birdie at the 13th and took advantage of the par-five penultimate hole as he closed on six under, a score later matched by Sungjae Im, Nick Taylor, Erik Van Rooyen and Roberto Castro.
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"I pretty much hit the ball where I wanted to and holed a few putts, so it was nice," said Lowry, the winner of the Abu Dhabi HSBC Championship back in January. "I've had a couple weeks off and I didn't really do that much. Probably the least I've done on any of my time off this week, or this year.
"I didn't really know what to expect this week, so yeah, I'm very happy. I just kind of went out there with little expectation, but I knew that I been playing okay recently.
"I think I've enjoyed my golf a little bit more over the last little while. Obviously it's easier to enjoy it when you're finishing third (RBC Heritage) and eighth (PGA Championship). Hopefully I can keep it going."
Former US Open champion McDowell, who is looking forward to next week's return to the scene of his greatest triumph at Pebble Beach, gave himself plenty of encouragement for the third major of the year with a six-birdie 65.
McDowell birdied three of the first five holes and, after dropping a shot at the seventh, he rolled in a long putt for a three at the 10th and enjoyed a birdie-birdie finish to join Matt Kuchar and Jimmy Walker on five under par.
Danny Willett and Henrik Stenson are among a large group of players one further behind, with McIlroy on three under after a 67 which he admitted should have been lower after he hit 15 greens in regulation but missed several good chances outside of the five that did drop for birdie.
McIlroy: I should have gone lower
Rory McIlroy was frustrated at not getting more out of his first round in Canada
Koepka looked a little rusty having not played since defending his PGA Championship title last month, and the defending US Open champion carded two birdies and a pair of bogeys in an uneventful 70, while Justin Thomas was also level for the round.
Koepka and Thomas, who are outside the top 80 after day one, are not the only heavyweights facing a battle to make the cut, as defending champion and world No 2 Johnson struggled to a one-over 71 which included four bogeys in five holes from the 14th.