SHANE Lowry struggled to a five-over-par 75 on the first day of the Irish Open at Galgorm Castle.
Lowry, competing in the island of Ireland for the first time since picking up the Claret Jug at Royal Portrush in July 2019, faces a battle to make the halfway cut.
The Offaly man posted eight bogeys and three birdies in his round, including picking up a shot at the 18th, the BBC reports.
South African Dean Burmester and England’s Jordan Smith are the early clubhouse leaders on five under.
Burmester birdied seven of the first 12 holes but a double bogey six at the 17th saw him drop back within sight of the chasing pack.
Smith matched his 65 with a bogey-free round as he chases a second European Tour victory, having won the European Open in 2017.
Burmester also has one European Tour victory to his name, triumphing in the Tswane Open in his native country in 2017.
Lowry won the Irish Open as an amateur in 2009 and travelled to Galgorm from the United States where he finished 43rd in last week’s US Open at Winged Foot.
“It was a comedy of errors out there – there wasn’t one part of my game that was above average,” said Lowry after his round.
“Every time I made some really bad decisions I executed my shots really badly. I really struggled on the greens too.
“It’s not easy shooting a score like that when you really want to do well. I have to go out there on Friday to fight to make the cut.”
Englishman Toby Tree is one off the lead in the clubhouse on four under, with Swede Rikard Karlberg and Irish amateur James Sugrue three under.
Sugrue, 24, also played in the US Open last week as part of his reward for winning the Amateur Championship at Portmarnock in 2019.
South African Dean Burmester laid down a marker with an early 65 on Thursday
Dutchman Daan Huizing and Swede Joakim Largergren, both former winners of the Northern Ireland Open Challenge Tour event at the Galgorm parkland course, are well in contention on level par.
Highly-fancied South African George Coetzee was grouped with Lowry for the first two rounds and fared a little better than his playing partner by firing a one-over 71.
Coetzee followed up back-to-back victories on the Sunshine Tour’s Titleist Championship and European Tour’s Portugal Masters with a tied third place at last week’s Open de Portugal – his ninth worldwide top 10 of 2020.
Europe Ryder Cup captain and ex-Irish Open winner Padraig Harrington, playing competitively for the first time in seven months, picked up early shots at the second and fourth holes.
Dropped shots at the fifth and seventh saw the three-time major winner drop back to level par however.
The Galgorm venue is hosting a European Tour event for the first time after the event, originally scheduled to take place at Mount Juliet in Kilkenny in May, was postponed.