Shane Lowry rolls up his sleeves and moves into contention at Wentworth

Clarke returns to form after battling with a hamstring injury

 Ireland’s Shane Lowry is tied eight at the midway point at Wentworth.

Ireland’s Shane Lowry is tied eight at the midway point at Wentworth.

Sat, May 25, 2013, 02:00

The no-nonsense approach worked. “I just got on with it, and kept going,” said Shane Lowry.

And, for sure, in wicked weather conditions, such an uncomplicated attitude reaped dividends for the 26-year-old Offalyman who moved into contention – in tied-eighth at the midway point – of the European Tour’s flagship tournament, the BMW PGA Championship.

In fairness to Lowry, he did more that simply get on with the task at hand.

At one point of his round, on the par four eighth hole at the farthest corner of the West Course, his quest for the title very nearly imploded.

There, after a perfect tee shot and with just 115 yards to the pin, Lowry found his ball lying in a horrible divot. “I tried to just hood a lob wedge into the green,” recalled Lowry.

Plunged into hazard
Unfortunately for him, the connection was fat and he watched aghast as the ball plunged into the hazard. An ugly double-bogey six followed.

It was a sign of Lowry’s fortitude that he rolled up his sleeves and produced some of the day’s best golf on the stretch home, by which time the wind had changed direction and accentuated the challenge as he played into the wind for the final stretch of six holes. Whilst the majority of the field struggled, Lowry contrived to produce four birdies – at the 12th, 14th, 17th and 18th – to sign for a 71, for 141, that left him perfectly poised to contend.

The wind and the rain didn’t bother Lowry. “I knew it would probably eliminate at least a third of the field, who wouldn’t want to be out there . . . it was just a case of, batten down the hatches, keep your head down and try to shoot as good a score as you can,” he said. “I really had to fight my way into contention, so it really was a decent (effort).”

Much to play for
The upshot is that Lowry, probably requiring a top-three finish to move into the world’s top-60 and claim an automatic spot into the US Open when the rankings are announced on Monday, has much to play for over the weekend.

He knows, too, that it is possible. In 2011, Lowry was tied-54th at the midpoint and shot weekend rounds of 69-67 to shoot up the leaderboard to eventually claim a tie for fourth.

He is even better positioned this time around. “If I can shoot something in the 60s (in the third round) and give myself a chance going into Sunday, it’d be nice.”

Lowry, on 144, headed the group of five Irish players who survived the cut along with Darren Clarke (70 for 144), Damien McGrane (73 for 145), Peter Lawrie (72 for 146) and Paul McGinley (75 for 146).

Clarke’s return to form was especially welcome, after battling with a hamstring injury that ruled him out of the Masters and resulted in almost eight weeks of rehabilitation.

“Because of my injury, I didn’t get playing so now I am mad keen. I have been working hard all the time,” said Clarke, who added: “The ball striking is still as good as it has been and I just need to score a little bit better.”