After a disappointing first round on Thursday, Shane Lowry bounced back into BMW PGA Championship contention yesterday with a five-under-par 67 at Wentworth that leaves him the best of the Irish heading into the weekend.
Lowry, last year’s runner-up in the European Tour’s flagship tournament, will begin today’s third round on three under par after 36 holes, seven shots behind halfway leader Francesco Molinari. The world number 55 gave credit for his improved scoring to the confidence-boosting power of positive thinking as he sat alone in his hotel on Thursday night and pored over his opening-round, two-over-par 74.
“I sat down and honestly thought through every shot and I probably hit five bad shots yesterday. You know, I hit two good shots at the first, I could take you through the lot of it, hit a lovely shot at the second, poor tee shot at the third but I got on with it and it just felt like I got absolutely nothing out of it.
“When you tell yourself that it’s like ‘well, I’m not playing that badly.’
“The old me would have probably ended up going to the range and hitting 50 balls yesterday evening and it would have been worse, beating my head against a brick wall, kind of thing. “So it’s given me a bit of a pep in my step.”
For a player with an excellent record around Wentworth’s West Course, yesterday’s round was reaffirmation of Lowry’s capabilities after two months with his game in the doldrums. “I feel like I should be coming here and competing. That’s why I’m frustrated. I haven’t been competing over the last, you know, I don’t want to be going out there and finishing 30th. That’s not why I’m here playing. I want to be going out giving myself chances to win. I want to give myself as many chances to win as I can.
“If I do that between now and the end of the season, hopefully I’ll win one or two. My goal is to win more but I feel if I can definitely go a little bit further if I put my mind down to it and just let it happen.
“Hopefully I go out and give it a go this weekend. I was kind of charging around like I normally do and I was getting up and down when I missed greens. I was giving myself chances, I was hitting good wedge shots, which is kind of what I do. I think if I drive it a little bit better tomorrow, I can give it a go this weekend.” Lowry added: “I am in a lovely position going into the weekend, I am seven off the lead. I am going to be in the top 20, top 15 maybe going into the weekend which is where you want to be and if I can get myself within three or four of the lead going into the final round on Sunday I feel like I can give it a go. Hopefully this will be the weekend that turns it around.”
While Lowry’s Wentworth stock rose, Peter Lawrie’s slipped just a touch as the tournament invitee fell back from three under following an opening 67 to one under after 36 holes.
The Dubliner, though, still has a chance of his biggest cheque of the season so far as he bids to regain his European Tour card for next season. Among the other Irish in action, Damien McGrane failed to improve on his opening two-under 70 but his second-round 74 was still good enough to make the cut on level par and gain access to his first weekend’s play on Tour since the Africa Open in March.
That will feel particularly sweet given McGrane effectively disqualified himself last Friday at the Open de Espana when his poor form prompted a mid-round walk-off. Graeme McDowell and Darren Clarke started the second round with work to do to make the weekend and it was mission accomplished.
They had each begun their days at two over par and both finished it with rounds of 71 that mean they will start the weekend at one over.
No such luck for Royal Dublin pro Niall Kearney whose second-round 74 left the PGA Ireland Order of Merit winner at two over par, just the wrong side of the projected cut-line. Like Rory McIlroy, who finished on five over after a second-round 77, things were more clear-cut for Belfast’s Michael Hoey, who bowed out following a second successive 75 stranded him at six over.
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