The Open leader Shane Lowry explains how three local heroes are secretly helping him

The big Irishman found himself at the top of the leaderboard after shooting four under par at Royal Portrush.

All the attention had been on Rory McIlroy, who took huge galleries with him around the Dunluce links, despite crashing to a woeful 79.

In the meantime, Lowry went about his business to post his best ever opening score in a Major championship.

Lowry, who finished eighth in the PGA Championship this season, admitted he had never felt as nervous as what he did on the first tee.

But now he is relishing the chance to try and go on and win what he reckons could be the best Open in history.

He said: “I feel like, for me, I can come here a little more under the radar than the other Irish guys.

“G-Mac (Graeme McDowell) is from here, he grew up here. Rory is an hour down the road and obviously had some great times here. And Darren (Clarke) lives here now. I feel like for me I can kind of be more under the radar than everyone else.

“But obviously not now. The crowds are unbelievable and cheered on every tee box, and every green is such a special feeling.

“I tried to enjoy that as much as I can while I was doing my work and then getting down to business. It’s going to be an exciting few days ahead. I hope I can give them something to cheer about on Sunday afternoon.

McDowell said: “I’m beating myself up because I tripled the last. I loved the support. It was brilliant. I really enjoyed the crowd out there. The people were amazing.

“I tried to go out and use the energy positively, and I felt like I did that. It was nothing to do with the crowd at the last that made me make 7. That was all my own work.

“It’s certainly a round that got away from me. Does it put me out of the tournament? No. But it’s like I focus on the good stuff and try not to let that 7 beat me up.”

Clarke, meanwhile, hit the opening shot of the championship from the tee which is just yards from his own house, and went on to compile a more than acceptable round of level par 71 to give himself a strong chance of making the cut.

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