Clarke must make his three captain’s picks on Tuesday and while Lowry’s recent form makes him an outsider for a pick behind the experienced Lee Westwood and Martin Kaymer or the in-form Russell Knox or Thomas Pieters, he has two more rounds to show Clarke he can still be an asset at Hazeltine.
Cool, blustery conditions played into Lowry’s hands at Himmerland Golf and Spa Resort and he fired seven birdies, including four in his last six holes, to soar 101 places to tied 30th on two under par.
He’s still a daunting 11 strokes behind Welshman Bradley Dredge, who leads by three shots on 13 under par from Swede Joakim Lagergren with wildcard rival Pieters just four shots off the pace in joint third with Richard Sterne after battling to a level par 71 under Clarke’s nose.
Paul Dunne is the best of the Irish, seven strokes off the pace in joint 12th after a 68 while Cormac Sharvin and Peter Lawrie shot 70s to make the level par cut on the mark.
Clarke (71) missed his ninth cut from 12 starts this year while Michael Hoey (76) is in danger of losing his card as he finished well off the pace on seven over.
West Waterford’s Gary Hurley followed his 69 with a nightmare 85 — the worst round of his short professional career — as he dropped four shots in his first four holes and never recovered.
Clarke will likely have been watching last night’s FedExCup action from The Barclays, where wildcard-seeking Graeme McDowell was a shot outside the cut mark on three over after playing his first 11 holes at Bethpage State Park’s Black Course.
World No. 5 Rory McIlroy, meanwhile, threatened to shoot his first bogey free round on the PGA Tour since March before two late bogeys forced him to settle for a two under 69 that left him tied for 19th, three behind clubhouse leader Ryan Moore.
After playing superbly to be four under for the day with five holes to go, the world No. 5 three putted the 15th from nearly 60 feet, then failed from 15 feet for par at the next having plugged his approach under the lip of a bunker.
Revealing later that he’s finally hitting the ball with 100% commitment following last year’s ankle ligament injury, he added that his putting is slowly coming around.
“It felt better than it did yesterday,” he said after using the blade 31 times.
“You have to hole a few to get under par on this golf course, and I held a couple. I actually holed a couple of good ones for par on the back nine to keep the momentum going. It’s a work-in-progress but it’s getting better. As long as I keep seeing improvements, I’ll be happy.”
There was also a 10-shot swing for an Irish player on the Challenge Tour with Mount Juliet’s Kevin Phelan following his opening 64 with a 74 to slip back to tied 23rd alongside Chris Selfridge (68) on six under, 11 strokes behind Belgium’s Thomas Detry.
Waterville’s Mark Murphy was the only other Irish player to make the weekend, surviving the four-under par cut on the mark.