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Lowry is happy to see proof that his nerves no longer weigh him down


In line: Shane Lowry eyes up a birdie attempt at Lahinch
In line: Shane Lowry eyes up a birdie attempt at Lahinch
Russell Knox

By Brian Keogh

Johan Cruyff was one of sport's great philosophers and while he always felt pre-match nerves were a good thing, he had his homespun way of putting his players at ease.

"When you go out on the pitch, I want you to look at that crowd because they're putting on that show for you," he told Barcelona at Wembley in 1992, where his claret and blue 'Dream Team' would beat Sampdoria in extra-time to clinch the Catalan club's first European Cup. "So just go out on that pitch and enjoy yourselves."

Sport is as much about your state of mind as any technical pluses or minuses and Shane Lowry appears to have found a way to deal with nerves and internal and external expectations and allow his undoubted talent to shine brightly.

The four-under-par 66 he shot in the first round of the Dubai Duty Free Irish Open at Lahinch yesterday will not go down as his greatest performance.

But it was as emotionally mature and steady as it gets from the Offaly man, who has worked hard with his coach Neil Manchip to improve his post-shot body language so that any lingering negativity does not feed into the next shot.

When it came to assessing his attitude on the sun-splashed links yesterday, he was more than pleased.

"Close to 10 out of 10," he retorted quickly. "I am feeling good. I'm not going to lie, I said it to Neil on the putting green this morning, I was anxious and a little uneasy.

"We just had a little quick chat about it and we said to just go out there and pick my targets and hit as many good shots as I can and see where it leaves me. And that's what I did. I don't think I played well at all, but I scored quite well."

Pre-event nerves are a sign that the warrior is ready for battle, and Lowry is certainly up for it this week.

"I care about this tournament an awful lot," he said after following a three-putt bogey at the third with birdies at the fifth (20ft) and ninth (9ft) to turn in 33.

"It's one of the big things for me. Like I said earlier on in the week, I'd give anything just to have a chance here on Sunday afternoon."

He came home in 33 too, picking up shots at the 12th, 14th and 18th and accepted his near misses with good grace.

"I had a bad three-putt on the third, but I hit some decent shots at the start. To birdie (The Dell) was nice. It settled me down a little bit, and then I hit a lovely second shot on the sixth from a bad spot, and I had a great two-putt there. From there on, I felt I played okay," he said.

He got his breaks too, such as the flyer approach to the 14th that hit the pin and left him a short putt for birdie he duly converted.

"Yeah, I get enough bad breaks so I'll take the good ones," he said, fully aware that Lahinch is a capricious beast that can bite without much warning.

"It's tricky. It's hard to hit fairways out there. Even on 18, we hit three great drives there, and not one of us landed on the fairway. Stuff like that."

In times gone by, he'd have lamented those bad breaks, but he's learned to move on quickly.

His task now is to deal with the fact that he's contending in the Irish Open again.

"If it wasn't the Irish Open this week, I'd be feeling great about coming here, feeling great and trying to win," he said. "Because it's the Irish Open and there's a little bit of added pressure, it doesn't mean it should be any other way.

"I shot 66 and need to shoot a good score tomorrow. If I've got a chance coming down the last few holes on Sunday, I'll give it my best."

England's Lee Slattery, who has missed the cut in 10 of his 13 starts this season and the last six in succession, defied such poor form to card a 65.

"I've not played much golf because I've not played the weekend that much so I feel fairly fresh," Slattery said afterwards.

"But I've just been very unfortunate, missing a lot of cuts by a single shot. There has to be a time in the season where you turn it around, especially as hard as I work."

Scotland's Russell Knox (left) began the defence of his title with a bogey-free 67, while playing partner Tommy Fleetwood was also three under after carding five birdies and a double bogey on the 15th.

"Apart from one hole I felt like I was really clinical out there and doing a lot of good stuff," Fleetwood said.

"Just one hole was a little hiccup but apart from that it was really good."

Belfast Telegraph


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