Lowry Shoots 66 to Lead Matsuyama, Lower by 1 in Arnold Palmer Invitational

Shane Lowry of Ireland is atop the leaderboard again and this times hopes to stay there. On a course he hasn’t played that well in the past.

The 36-year-old Lowry, who last week was tied for the lead after three rounds but wound up in a tie for fourth in the Cognizant Classic, shot six-under-par 66 to lead Hideki Matsuyama of Japan and Justin Lower after the first day of the 59th Arnold Palmer Invitational at Bay Hill Club and Lodge in Orlando, Fla.

“(Bay Hill) is one of these places where some people love it, but I’ve struggled with it over the years,” said,” Lowry, who captured the 2019 Open Championship at Royal Portrush in Northern Ireland. “It’s a nice place to come, it’s obviously a great tournament, a huge tournament, and I’m very happy with that today. Maybe that’s the kind of score I need to shoot around here to just give myself the confidence to go out and play my game around here.

“This is the type of place where you get on a run and it feels easy, but then you get on a run the other way and start making bogeys, it feels like you’re never going to make a par out here again. It’s normally one of the firmest golf courses we play, and I’m sure over the weekend it’s going to firm up and become really difficult.

“But 66 is a really good start.”

Lowry, who has won six times as a professional, chipped in from 18 feet for an eagle on the 12th hole and made four of his five birdies on the back nine against a single bogey at No. 14 in his 66.

Matsuyama, who claimed his ninth PGA Tour victory and 18th as a pro three weeks ago in the Genesis Invitational at Riviera Country Club in Pacific Palisades, holed out for an eagle from 50 feet at No. 16 in a 67, which Lower equaled by making three of his seven birdies on the last four holes.

“My back was not feeling perfect, but I was kind of hitting, kind of protecting myself, and I feel like I was able to keep the momentum from the previous tournament, so I think that really helped,” said Matsuyama, the 2021 Masters champion.

“(The back) happened maybe like two years ago, but it didn’t get worse since then. But my leg is a little numb right now, so it’s really not the perfect condition, so because of that I had no expectations for today’s round, but I was able to keep the good round going all day. With no wind at Bay Hill, that’s pretty rare, so I think that really helped today.”

Said Lower, who is playing in the Arnold Palmer Invitational for the first time and is seeking his first PGA Tour victory: “It’s pretty awesome. Obviously, I didn’t think I could get in until after Mexico, but it would have been a lot less stressful had I made that putt on the last hole in Mexico for solo third instead of a tie for third. But luckily I got in and I’m here, so really just trying to take advantage of the week, for sure.”

Sahith Theegala of Chino Hills and Pepperdine holed out from 17 feet on the 12th hole and added five birdies in a 68 and is tied for fourth with Russell Henley, who made four birdies on the back nine; Lee Hodges, who sank a 14-foot eagle putt at No. 16 and added four birdies, and Sam Burns, who collected five of his eight birdies on the back nine.

Tenth-ranked Brian Harman made three straight birdies on the front nine and is in a big tie for eighth with Justin Thomas, Jordan Spieth, Min Woo Lee of Australia, Luke List, Will Zalatoris, Nick Taylor of Canada, Sepp Straka of Austria, Chris Kirk, Emiliano Grillo of Argentina, Adam Hadwin of Canada and Patton Kizzire.

Top-ranked Scottie Scheffler shot 70 and is tied for 20th, while fourth-ranked Viktor Hovland of Norway made three late birdies in a 71 and is in a tie for 25th that includes seventh-ranked Wyndham Clark and eighth-ranked Max Homa of Valencia and Cal.

Fifth-ranked Xander Schauffele of La Jolla and San Diego State is tied for 35th at 72, while second-ranked Rory McIlroy of Northern Ireland shot 73 and is tied for 49th, and sixth-ranked Patrick Cantlay of Los Alamitos and UCLA wound up at 74 and is in a tie for 57th that includes nine-ranked Matt Fitzpatrick of England.

 Defending champion Kurt Kitayama of Chico birdied the last hole for a 78 and is solo 68th.

For complete results and second-round tee times, visit: https://www.pgatour.com/leaderboard  

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