Irish duo in desert duel

Shane Lowry overcame a sleepless night following his shock win over Rory McIlroy to crush Carl Pettersson 6 and 5 and set up a dream last 16 clash with pal Graeme McDowell in the WGC-Accenture Match Play Championship.

The Clara ace can’t wait to give his hometown fans more to cheer about against stablemate McDowell, who had to birdie the last to force extra holes against Sweden’s Alex Noren, eventually pulling off a dramatic 20th hole win.

“Yesterday was quite exciting for everyone back home,” Lowry said after a brilliant victory. “I come from a very small town, and everyone was really behind me.

“I’m sure they’re all down at the local pub having a few drinks watching the golf on Sky and they’re celebrating my win today. Hopefully I can give them something to cheer about tomorrow, as well.”

McDowell was one up with four to play but lost the 15th and 17th to birdies to go to the last one down.

But he hit a sensational 162 yard approach to four feet at the 18th and holed the putt to force extra time.

Noren had to hole a clutch 10-footer for par at the 19th to extend the match but tugged his approach deep into the desert at the 20th and failed to save par, conceding McDowell’s seven-foot birdie chance and the match.

Believing he’s ready to take on stablemate Lowry, McDowell said: “I’m looking forward to it. We’ve eaten dinner together every night and Shane is a good friend of mine. I’ve watched him come through the ranks and develop and he’s a hell of a player. He had a great win today and hasn’t played as many holes as I have but in a way I feel hardened up over the last two matches.”

After seeing off Pádraig Harrington at the last on Thursday and then edging out Noren in sudden death, McDowell added: “They have been tough and I have had to win them the hard way and I have to go and do the same tomorrow, stay patient and try and make some birdies.”

World number 68 Lowry is certainly ready for the challenge after insisting following his one hole win over the world number one McIlroy that he wasn’t in Tucson “to make up the numbers”.

He proved it in emphatic fashion, storming into a four up lead at the turn with a faultless display before closing out the world number 35 and five-time PGA Tour winner Pettersson at the 13th.

Six under for the holes played, a delighted Lowry confessed: “I was on such a high yesterday it was tough to get to sleep last night but I managed to get a few hours and get up this morning.

“I still got about eight hours, so it wasn’t that bad. I’m normally a good 10-hour man.

“I knew it was going to be a tough day against Carl but I just put my head down and played some of the best golf I have played in a long time. I’m quite pleased.

“To get a 6 and 5 win in this tournament is huge but I can’t get ahead of myself.

“Graeme’s a very good match player and a very good friend. But I feel I have a good mindset for matchplay and I like the one-on-one battle.”

As for the prospect of 36 holes a day over the weekend and a potential quarter-final meeting with Bubba Watson or Jason Day tonight, he said: “I’ve done that as an amateur for years. It’s only golf.”

Lowry can secure a place in the WGC-Cadillac Championship at Doral in two weeks if he reaches the semi-finals.

The 2009 Irish Open and 2012 Portugal Masters winner got off to the ideal start against fellow heavyweight Pettersson, rifling a 163-yard approach to just five feet to set up a winning birdie at the first.

The next four holes were halved in pars but it was Pettersson who had to do all the scrambling, getting up and up and down from greenside traps at the fourth and fifth to remain just one down.

Lowry was playing beautifully and was next to strike. With the tee pushed up at the short sixth, he hit a 148-yard tee shot to six feet and rolled in the putt to go two up.

He missed a 10- foot birdie chance to double his lead at the seventh but took advantage of a sensational 289-yard three wood approach to 16 feet at the eighth, two putting for birdie to go three up.

He extended his lead to four holes with a winning par at the ninth where Pettersson missed another green to the left.

The Swede had to hole a seven-footer just to match Lowry’s birdie from 11 feet at the par-five 11th but overshot the par-three 12th and bogeyed to hand the Irish star a five-up lead with six to play.

It all ended at the next when Pettersson missed a 24-footer for birdie and Lowry calmly rolled in a 16 footer for his sixth birdie of the day to close out a huge win.

Picture: ON COURSE: Shane Lowry watches his approach at the second during yesterday’s second round of the WGC - Accenture Match Play tournament in Arizona. Picture: Getty Images

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