Lowry produces the goods when it matters most
Last-hole birdie keeps Offalyman inside the cut line, while pal McIlroy departs
Rory McIlroy looks dejected during day two of the 2013 Open Championship at Muirfield. Photograph: Peter Byrne/PA
Only the strong-willed answer the call and, as he has proven in a professional career thrust upon him in near-fairy-tale fashion with his Irish Open win of 2009 when still an amateur, Shane Lowry possesses his fair share of fortitude. The boy has since grown into a man.
Yesterday, on the 18th hole here at Muirfield, Lowry – with his survival in the 142nd British Open hanging by a thread – unleashed a supremely accurate drive that flew past the fairway bunkers and left him with a 140-yards nine-iron approach.
He landed the ball four feet from the hole, and ran in the downhill putt for a closing birdie. Little wonder, he bounded off the green to the recorder’s like a spring lamb!
For the second successive day, Lowry shot a 74 – for 148, six-over – but, in contrast to Thursday’s opening round when he was downbeat, the Offalyman was close to ebullient.
“I really wanted to make the cut. Not that there was pressure on me but I still feel like I can do well, the tournament is far from over and there are lads going backwards . . . . if you shoot any sort of score (in the third round) you have, not a chance of winning, but a chance of a good finish.
“I just have to keep doing what I am doing,” said the 26-year-old Offalyman.
He added: “The thing is you can make birdie on every hole, but you can also make double on every hole. That’s the way it’s playing.
‘One of the toughest courses’
“If you play the hole well, the greens are good enough if you get on the right side of the hole. If you get on the wrong side of the hole, and get out of position, it is tough. It is probably one of the toughest courses I have ever played. Mentally, it’s tiring.”
Still, Lowry – who made the cut in his only previous British Open, at St Andrews in 2010, where he finished tied-37th, has given himself the chance to push on.
“I was quite edgy towards the end of the round, playing 17 and 18. I am proud of myself, the tee shot I hit on 18 and the second shot and then to knock in that tricky little putt as well was nice. It’s all big.”
Lowry’s mood was in stark contrast to that of his friend Rory McIlroy, who bowed out rather quietly with a 75 to add to his opening 79.
“I decided that I was going to hit driver every hole that I could, because that’s going to be a big factor the next few weeks (coming in the Bridgestone Invitational and the US PGA).
“I actually drove the ball pretty well, and ended up playing the last 11 holes under par. That was encouraging, but obviously I’m disappointed to be going home for the weekend. It’s the first time I’ve missed a cut at the Open, so it’s obviously quite disappointing,” said McIlroy.
Pádraig Harrington, who got in on 148, was “disappointed” to drop four shots in his closing five holes in posting a second round 75 to add to his opening 73.
“That’s never much fun,” he observed of that late leakage.
Graeme McDowell added a 71 for 146 that left him on the fringes of contention.
“I don’t think my 3-iron saw the light of day. I’m not enjoying hitting it. It’s basically 13 clubs in the bag, so I need to find a club that I can get in play off the tee because, right now, I’m kind of driver, 3-wood, 3-hybrid and 4-iron.
“There’s a gap there, I need to fill in that gap somehow and just putt better, really.
“Just knock in those 10, 15-footers a little better and just get going.”