Shane Lowry and Thomas Bjorn take initiative
Leading duo four shots clear but Luke Donald digs deep on familiar Wentworth ground
Thomas Bjorn of Denmark gets his ball back after holing his bunker shot on the 15th hole during day two of the BMW PGA Championship at Wentworth. Photograph: Andrew Redington/Getty Images.
It rained cats and dogs for much of yesterday’s second round of the BMW PGA Championship here at Wentworth, which wasn’t entirely a bad thing. For one, it took the fire out of the famed West Course; and, if players togged out in waterproofs and caddies wiped clubs dry and manfully held umbrellas over their men in preparation for shot execution, the upshot was that those who ignored the elements were rewarded most of all.
On a day when the dark, grey clouds only dissipated in the late afternoon, England’s Luke Donald – a recent two-time winner of the European Tour’s flagship championship – crept into contention with a best-of-the-day 67, which moved him into a share of third alongside Spain’s Rafa Cabrera-Bello.
But they are chasers, pursuers. And the two men cast in the front-running role – Shane Lowry and Thomas Bjorn – seemed undaunted, as if this famed course, as tough as it played, provided inspiration rather than intimidation. Job to be done In believing there is a job to be done and simply getting on with it, Lowry and Bjorn have separated themselves from the field. The Irishman shot a 70 to reach the midpoint on 134, 10-under-par; while the Dane, signing for 10 shots more than his course record of the previous day, shot a 72 to also finish on the 134 mark. It gave them a four stroke cushion over Messrs Donald and Cabrera-Bella, with a quartet of players – among them Rory McIlroy – a shot further back.
In all, five Irish players survived the midway cut: Lowry, sitting at the head of affairs, with McIlroy (71 for 139), Simon Thornton (68 for 142), Pádraig Harrington (76 for 145) and Damien McGrane (75 for 146) all making it through to the weekend when the prospect of further rain, with a band of low pressure spread across the region, set to make for further tough conditions.
Lowry, who has run into form at the right time, had missed three cuts in a row on tour before playing in the Spanish Open. But he had never doubted that he would turn a corner.
“I felt I have been playing so well I couldn’t understand how I was missing cuts. I couldn’t understand the scores I was shooting. I would play in practice, nail it and go out and there would be something missing. I have obviously found something. To be honest, I don’t know what it is but I feel like I am mentally really good. I mean, I go back and I say it again, it is all about putting,” he said.
Although he finished birdie-birdie – sinking a 20 footer on the 18th green to move alongside Bjorn – there was typical honesty from Lowry in nominating a shot on the 16th as the “key” one of his round. In the rough There, Lowry’s pulled tee shot finished in the rough and his view of the green was blocked by trees. He hit a low hook with an eight-iron for his approach. The ball pitched on the green and finished up over the back.
“It was the best leave I could have left,” he later observed. He pitched to six feet, sank the par putt and took the momentum with him to the 17th and 18th, where he finished with back-to-back birdies. “I was especially glad to roll in one from distance at the last, it was a tricky putt across the slope.”
Only Nicolas Colsaerts, of the entire field, also managed that feat of finishing birdie-birdie. In his case, it enabled him to make the cut on the mark (two-over-par 146).
Lowry hasn’t held or shared a 36-hole lead for three years, going back to the Iberdrola Open won by Darren Clarke in 2011. “A long time,” admitted Lowry. “It’s been a while since I’ve been here so I’ll enjoy it while I can.”
Bjorn, for his part, was getting ahead of the moment. As he put it: “Golf is a funny game and it changes very quickly. There’s two hard days ahead of us. You’ve got to get out there and you’ve got to play this golf course. You can’t play all the other guys in the field, you have to play the golf course and stay focused on that.”
Donald falls into the horses for courses category and will probably move to the first tee for the third round believing he can make a successful pursuit. “It can’t hurt,” claimed the Englishman, adding: “I’ve got to have a personal comfort level about how I feel about my game, how I’m swinging. Coming to a place where you’ve won, you know that course sets up pretty well for you.”
Harrington had an uncomfortable day on the greens, which started with a double-bogey six on his opening hole. It set a trend for the round, but he battled to ensure he stayed around for the weekend. ‘Real bonus’ “The real bonus of making cuts is that you play on the weekend with no pressure in easier conditions than anyone else. And you can build momentum doing that, you can build confidence and get an early 65 on a Sunday that gets you into a top-10 and you think you have played great. Which is a good thing. But you have got to be there at the weekend to do it,” said the Dubliner.