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Rory McIlroy and Shane Lowry three shots off the lead at Cognizant Classic in The Palm Beaches | Golf News

Rory McIlroy and Shane Lowry sit three shots off the lead at the PGA Tour Cognizant Classic in The Palm Beaches after the opening round.

Both McIlroy and Lowry sit on four under, behind joint leaders Chad Ramey and S.H Kim, after a day of unusually calm conditions for the venue.

Kim shot an eagle and five birdies, including one on the finishing hole, to pull level atop the leaderboard.

A group of five players – Cameron Young, Ryan Moore, Chesson Hadley, Austin Eckroat and Andrew Novak – all played in the morning wave and finished one stroke back with six-under rounds of 65.

Rory McIlroy
Image:
Rory McIlroy sits three shots off the lead at PGA Tour Cognizant Classic after the first day

Ramey’s past appearances in the event – then known as the Honda Classic – were quick and unremarkable. He missed the cut at PGA National by 10 shots in 2022, missed it by just one stroke last year and failed to shoot a round in the 60s either time.

But conditions were perfect when he teed off early on Thursday; a course known to often have whipping winds had barely a breeze for much of his round.

“I got a good break this morning with there not being any wind,” Ramey said. “I fully expect the rest of the week the wind to blow. I’ve never been here and it not blow. But to take advantage of the calm conditions is definitely a plus.”

Rory McIlroy, the world’s No 2-ranked player who shot a four-under 67 in the morning wave, added: “You’re not going to get this course much easier.”

Ramey made a 27-foot birdie putt on the opening hole, starting a stretch where he had five birdies in his opening seven holes – including on the 479-yard, par-four sixth, one of PGA National’s tougher holes. From there, he mostly just stayed out of trouble; only two of his 11 par putts were from outside of four feet.

“Hit it well, putted well, chipped in once,” said Ramey, whose last first-round lead came last year at The Players Championship. “Very solid through the whole bag.”

Kim – who shot a 58 on the Japan Golf Tour in 2021 – holed out from 25 yards on the par-five third to highlight his round. He holds a first-round lead for the first time in his 45 PGA Tour starts.

Hadley was also bogey-free, with six birdies on his card as he finished one shot back of Ramey. Moore holed out from 113 yards for eagle at the par-four 13th, highlighting his 65. Eckroat had five consecutive birdies in one stretch; he and Moore had nine birdies and three bogeys on the day.

Hadley said the combination of minimal wind and receptive greens left him thinking “let’s go”.

“I was able to take advantage of the conditions today and shoot six under. It probably will continue to go a little bit lower, but it’ll show its teeth. It always does,” Hadley said. “Typically if you’re just hanging around on Sunday, you can put together something, and it can be a special weekend.”

Billy Horschel, C.T. Pan, Sam Ryder, Bud Cauley, Erik van Rooyen, Kevin Yu and Chandler Phillips were in a group at five-under 66. McIlroy, defending champion Chris Kirk and FedExCup points leader Matthieu Pavon were among those who finished with 67s on a day where PGA National was far from its toughest.

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