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March 7, 2024

Lowry Surges Into First-Round Lead at Arnold Palmer Invitational Presented by Mastercard

ORLANDO, Fla. – Shane Lowry nearly equaled the back-nine record Thursday afternoon at the Arnold Palmer Invitational presented by Mastercard, surging into sole possession of the first-round lead thanks to a scorching 66 at Bay Hill Club & Lodge.
The winner of the 2019 Open Championship leads 2021 Masters champion Hideki Matsuyama and relative newcomer Justin Lower by one stroke, while Russell Henley, Lee Hodges, Sam Burns and Sahith Theegala each shot 68 to tie for fourth after the first round. World No. 1 Scottie Scheffler, the 2022 Arnold Palmer Invitational champion, sits four strokes off the lead after an opening-round 70.
Lowry was plodding along through a mostly uneventful round before he caught fire on the back nine, birdieing the 10th and 11th holes, then holing an 18-foot chip from the fringe on the 12th for eagle and a 20-foot, 8-inch birdie putt on the 13th that vaulted him into the lead. He gave one back with a bogey on the 14th, but regained the lead when he stuck his tee shot inside eight feet on the 17th and converted the birdie putt.
“I putted better today probably than I ever have around here,” Lowry said. “It’s only one day. I’m not taking anything for granted going out there tomorrow. I’m still going out there and trying to hit the first fairway and trying to hit the first green and try and hole my first putt.”
He said softer than usual greens due to early-week rain made the course a little more gettable than usual, but he’s not expecting those types of conditions the rest of the week.
“It’s funny, when you’re out there and you get on a run like that it does feel pretty easy,” Lowry explained. “Then you start — I spoke about this with my coach this week — I said, ‘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 one of them courses, it’s very difficult.”
The last time Matsuyama was seen on a golf course, he was in the midst of a Sunday afternoon birdie binge that catapulted him to a victory and a $4 million payday at the Genesis Invitational. He kept his hot streak going Thursday birdieing five of his first 12 holes en route to a nearly-flawless 67.
Matsuyama, a nine-time PGA TOUR winner, withstood some discomfort from a balky back and stayed steady throughout the round as he carried the momentum over from his victory three weeks ago in the PGA TOUR’s most recent Signature Event. Despite two back-nine bogeys, he made up ground on the 16th with a 50-foot chip-in eagle from the fringe.
“I had no expectations for today’s round, but I was able to keep the good round going all day,” Matsuyama said. “With no wind at Bay Hill, that’s pretty rare, so I think that really helped today.”
Lower also entered this week on a hot streak, having earned his way into this week’s limited-field Signature Event via the Aon Swing 5. The Ohio native has made the cut in all five events he has played this season, including a T-3 finish in last month’s Mexico Open at Vidanta.
His round started slowly Thursday, but five back-nine birdies lifted him into a share of the second place. Lower, 34, earned his PGA TOUR card just three years ago, but opened his tournament playing like a veteran.
“I putted well, and I hit some shots really close, which is always nice,” he said. “That’s kind of hard to do around here, but the greens were a little more receptive than I thought they would be. Hopefully, they don’t go and change that overnight. Just an overall solid day.”


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