Shane Lowry’s hopes of staying with the leaders suffered a setback at Royal Liverpool, but the way he recovered from a mid-round meltdown gives him a fighting chance of climbing back into contention.
Lowry had started his second round at The Open as the best-placed Irishman to chase down overnight leader and compatriot Rory McIlroy thanks to a four-under-par 68 that left him just two shots behind the Holywood golfer after 18 holes.
That had left the in-form two-time European Tour winner cautiously optimistic of his prospects for the rest of the week before disaster struck midway through his second round yesterday, a five over par run over three holes before the turn sending him plummeting down the leaderboard.
For the second day in a row, Lowry enjoyed a far better back nine at Hoylake than his front – he is seven under par for the tournament over holes 10 to 18 — and a birdie at the last left him with a 75 at one under par, rescuing him from a situation that could have been a whole lot more grave.
“By the (10th tee) I was thinking, ‘right, try to make the cut from there’ because it’s not easy down in that wind, I hit my three iron down the 11th hole (for birdie), I must have hit it probably 350 yards down there,” Lowry said.
“So the ball is going crazy distances out there but I feel like I played great the last two days, to be only one under is a bit annoying but it was very tough out there this morning.
“I was a little bit on the wrong side of the draw, which you can’t do anything about, but I’m here for the weekend, I’m under par and if you asked me if I would have taken this on Wednesday, I probably would have.
“I’m probably going to be five or six back (he’s 11 back) going into the weekend but a decent round tomorrow and you never know.”
Lowry’s brief nightmare started at the seventh where he hit a poor drive which was punished by a bad lie in the rough. He was forced to lay up but then mis-clubbed with his third shot and three-putted for a double-bogey six.
His tee shot at the par-four eighth went out of bounds en route to another double and then Lowry bogeyed the ninth.
“I’m proud of myself the way I regrouped and the way I played the back nine, I gave myself a chance on pretty much every hole on the way in.
“I didn’t really hole anything but it was nice to birdie the last and get back to under par.
“I just hope the conditions stay the way they are. The forecast is for the wind to calm down, which is not going to be great for us sitting in the clubhouse looking at the leaders playing.
“But it is what it is, I am where I am and I’m playing well enough to make a charge at the weekend.
That Lowry did regroup is a sign of the 27-year-old’s growing acclimatisation in top-flight golf.
“Two months ago I don’t think I would have. I got on with it. Birdieing 11 was huge to get back to par and I said to myself: ‘Just try to hang on from here, see what I can do coming in’.
“I’m confident going into the weekend. I probably couldn’t have played any better over the two rounds. Seven and eight were a real killer today but that’s golf and that’s the way links golf goes.”
Graeme McDowell appeared set for an early exit as he played his second round front nine in one over par to move to three over, one shot the wrong side of the projected cut line. But an assured four-birdie, bogey-free back nine led to a 69 that leaves him one under par for the tournament, safely into the weekend.
Paul Dunne’s hopes of the Silver Medal for Open low amateur will not be realised but the college golfer from Greystones should take plenty of heart from his efforts over two rounds, which left him at four over par.
The highlight for the qualifier was a four birdies in a row stretch from the 13th yesterday which saw him bow out with a respectable one-over 73 in testing winds at Hoylake.
“A day of two halves, really,” Dunne, 21, said. “I got off to a really bad start and I was five over after four but I just decided I needed to get through the tougher holes over the next few and try to take advantage of the back nine. Luckily I hit a nice birdie run but I figure I’ll come up a little bit short (of making the cut). It was a great experience and it was brilliant to make that run but hopefully one day I can make them on a Sunday.
“Hopefully it’s not going to be my last Open and I will play a few more in the future and do a little bit better,” the University of Alabama Birmingham golfer said. “You see everyone around you doing well, it makes you a little bit jealous about how they are doing. But I am just going to stick to what I am doing, keep practising away. I have been developing quite consistently up to this stage, if I can just keep on that track hopefully I will be out here every year.”
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