Inspired Lowry ‘very comfortable’ up with the big boys

Life gets better and better for Shane Lowry.

A couple of weeks ago the Offaly man was struggling to make the top 60 on the European Tour’s Race to Dubai order of merit that contest the Dubai World Championship.

Then he produced a memorable final day at Vilamoura to win the Portugal Masters. The 25 year-old quickly abandoned plans to try for a card on the USPGA Tour and instead contest some big money events in Asia.

That proved an inspired decision. Fifth in the BMW Masters at Lake Malaren over the weekend was worth €226, 367 and moved him to 21st in the Race to Dubai with earnings for the season of €954, 310. And yesterday came confirmation that Lowry has soared to 57th in the world rankings, within touching distance of the top 50 who automatically qualify for golf’s prestige events, including the Masters at Augusta in April.

Not bad for a man who began the 2012 campaign back in 119th place! Interestingly, this makes him the first player to replace Pádraig Harrington (now 59th) as the top ranked golfer from the Republic of Ireland since Paul McGinley in 1997. After finishing ahead of so many star names at Lake Malaren, Lowry admitted: “You look at that leaderboard and there are more Ryder Cup players than not on it. I feel very comfortable up there with those guys. Now I’m off to Mission Hills and looking forward to a World Golf Championship. What could be wrong with that.”

Very little indeed, you would have to agree!

And then there’s the even more exalted position in which Rory McIlroy finds himself. When you’re on top of your game and in position to win almost every time you tee up your golf ball, it’s not often you will turn down the chance to chase yet another major title, the pot full of money and precious ranking points that go with it. But that’s just what McIlroy is doing this week having opted not to enter the $7 million (€5.5m) WGC-HSBC Champions tournament at Mission Hills, Guangdong, China. Instead, he travels from China to Bulgaria, to watch girlfriend Caroline Wozniacki play tennis!

Arranging a schedule best suited to his requirements is proving an ongoing dilemma for McIlroy. Second in the BMW Masters Shanghai on Sunday behind the underrated Swede Peter Hanson means he is a red hot favourite to emulate Luke Donald’s achievement last year and lead the way in both the US and European Tour money lists. The first is already in the bag, the second is close to guaranteed as well given Rory enjoys a lead of 812, 572 points over Hanson.

However, there are so many points at stake in the many lucrative tournaments yet to come that nothing can be taken for granted.

Victory for Hanson or Rose at Mission Hills, for instance, could drastically alter the picture. HSBC are in the final year of their sponsorship of the WGC event and will hardly be encouraged to renew for another spell by the absence of McIlroy, Woods and several leading players.

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