Lowry joint third as Oosthuizen leads in China


GOLF:Ireland's Shane Lowry is chasing Louis Oosthuizen as the South African leads the final World Championship event of the season by five shots at halfway in China. Rounds of 65 and 63 have taken Oosthuizen to 16 under par in the HSBC Champions at Mission Hills.

Shane Lowry is tied in third place with America’s Jason Dufner on 10 under par and six shots off the pace with South African Ernie Els in second place with Australia’s Adam Scott, five shots behind.

Lowry is bidding for a second win in three starts and a place in the world’s top 50 for the first time,

“I didn’t birdie two easy par-fives and made a bad bogey on the sixth, but other than that I played lovely all day and gave myself a lot of chances,” said the Irishman. “What’s not to enjoy? I’m playing a World Golf Championship and I’m up there in the top five going into the weekend.”

For 90 minutes Oosthuizen held the course record on his own after his nine-under round. However, in the last group of the day, current Open champion Ernie Els matched it to join Adam Scott.

Two-time former winner Phil Mickelson would have been alongside them but for a closing double bogey. He tried to play out of the hazard left of the green, but moved the ball only a few inches and after two early eagles had to settle for a 69.

As for the European Tour money list race, the absent Rory McIlroy is an even stronger favourite after Ryder Cup team-mate Peter Hanson double-bogeyed the 12th and bogeyed the 14th for a 71 that dropped him from joint third into a tie for 12th.

Having beaten McIlroy in Shanghai last Sunday, Swede Hanson needed to win again to go past the world number one with three weeks left, but he now has nine strokes to make up.

Oosthuizen and Els have the chance to go second on the table this weekend, but Els is playing only his 10th Tour event of the season and unless he changes plans his name will be removed from the list for not meeting the 13-tournament minimum.

The 43-year-old has yet to have a bogey this week on his return from an ankle injury suffered when treading on a tennis ball during some time off, but Oosthuizen, a product of Els’ foundation like Charl Schwartzel and Branden Grace, is not going to be easy to catch.

“He’s playing great obviously,” Els said. “But there’s trouble out there. If you get a little wayward you can pay the penalty. We’ve seen that.”

Masters champion Bubba Watson, for instance, put two balls in the water for a triple-bogey eight at the 15th. He was lying seventh at the time. Japanese back marker Kenichi Kuboya took 10 there in a horrific back-nine 49.

After making birdies at each of the five par-fives on the opening day, Oosthuizen went even better on his return to the Jose Maria Olazabal-designed lay-out. He birdied four of them again and sank a long eagle putt at the 566-yard seventh as well as picking up four other birdies.

“I started off a bit shaky with a bogey on the second, but immediately made birdie and was putting really well,” Oosthuizen added. “I gave myself a lot of opportunities for birdie and if you make the putts you shoot a low number.”

Scott, still to win since his Open nightmare, said: “I’m pretty happy with 68. It wasn’t my best stuff out there, but five shots is a lot when you’ve got a guy like Louis out in front.”

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