The old saying encourages farmers to make hay while the sun shines, and it was a perfect metaphor for Shane Lowry’s philosophy during Thursday’s first round of the 51st RBC Heritage Presented by Boeing.
The 32-year-old Irishman fired a bogey-free round of 6-under-par 65 on a perfect spring day at Harbour Town Golf Links and holds a one-shot lead over a group of five players.
While the weather was nearly ideal Thursday, save for Harbour Town’s trademark tricky, swirling winds, Lowry and the rest of the field saw the importance of putting up a red number before Friday, when an advancing line of thunderstorms is expected to bring gusts of 25 to 30 mph.
“I knew when I saw the tee time it was a decent draw to get out there first thing when it wasn’t very windy,” Lowry said of his 7:20 a.m. start Thursday. “When it gets windy around here, it can swirl in the trees and get very difficult.”
Although the course uncharacteristically played more than a shot easier in the afternoon (70.39) than in the morning (71.68), no one from the later wave was able to catch Lowry. Team RBC ambassador Ryan Palmer made a run at it, but a bogey at the par-3 7th — his 16th hole — set him back, and he finished among the throng at 5-under along with Trey Mullinax, Daniel Berger, Luke List, and Ryan Moore.
Another eight players are two shots back, and 12 more are within three shots, including world No. 1 Dustin Johnson and past champion Graeme McDowell.
Lowry’s sterling first round was built on a typical model for success at Harbour Town — he hit 13 of 14 fairways, made three sand saves, and got up and down to save par four times, while birdieing all three par-5s and draining a pair of 8-foot birdie putts and another from 19 feet.
Fast starts at Harbour Town are not uncharted territory for Lowry, who carded an opening 66 in his only previous appearance here in 2017 but followed it up with a 75 on Friday en route to a tie for 44th. He plans to lean on that experience in the second round — whether that’s Friday or Saturday, depending on Mother Nature’s whims.
“You just need to be as patient as you can,” said Lowry, whose lone PGA Tour victory came at the 2015 WGC-Bridgestone Invitational. “A couple of years ago I got off to a good start and I maybe tried to force it a little bit. So just try to stay patient the next few days.”