Rory McIlroy and Shane Lowry make strong starts to Cognizant Classic

Leona Maguire tied fifth in HSBC Women’s World Championship in round that featured hole-out eagle

Rory McIlroy and Shane Lowry have made strong starts to the Cognizant Classic on the PGA Tour, both firing four-under-par rounds of 67 at PGA National, three shots behind the clubhouse leader Chad Ramey.

The two Irish players took advantage of more benign conditions than usual at Palm Beaches as perfectly calm conditions prevailed on a course where wind is usually a factor.

McIlroy, the pre-tournament favourite, began on the 10th hole with a birdie on the par 5, before he holed a 24-foot putt for birdie on the par 3 17th. He birdied two more par 5s, the 18th and the third, before he hit his best approach of the day on the sixth – 173 yards to three feet for his fifth birdie of the day.

The Northern Irishman, who won the tournament in 2012, posted his only bogey at the eighth hole when he missed the green over the back and failed to get up and down. McIlroy was in typical fine form with his driver, topping the field in strokes gained off the tee with 327-yard average on his drives.


Lowry navigated his 67 a different way, losing strokes off the tee but gaining it with his approaches and putting. The highlight of the Offaly man’s round was undoubtedly an eagle at the third hole, after a 216-yard approach to just three feet. Lowry made four other birdies in his round and two bogeys, satisfyingly finishing with a birdie on his final hole, the ninth.

Elsewhere, in the opening round of the HSBC Women’s World Championship in Singapore, Leona Maguire finished the day tied fifth after a two-under-par round of 70, two strokes behind leader Sarah Schmelzer. Maguire also had a memorable third hole, a brilliant hole-out eagle 2 on a par 4 with a hybrid from the middle of the fairway.

Maguire’s round was up-and-down, with four birdies and four bogeys otherwise as she struggled off the tee, but she was pleased with her first round on what she said is her favourite Tour stop in Asia.

“I think there’s plenty of chances if you hit the right shots. I didn’t drive the ball particularly well today but gave myself a few chances and holed some putts and made a few birdies which is nice,” she said.

“It is a big summer ahead with the majors and Solheim Cup and Olympics and all that. Feels like these first few are a bit of a warm up for them and then just trying to play as well as you can going into the summer.”

On the DP World Tour in South Africa, Tom McKibbin maintained the trend of good starts for Irish players in tournament across the world with a three-under 69 at the SDC Championship. He is tied 15th, four shots behind leaders South Africans Pieter Moolman and Shaun Norris.

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David Gorman

David Gorman

David Gorman is a sports journalist with The Irish Times