Shane Lowry and Séamus Power provide X-factor in second round of Irish Open

Leader Jorge Campillo added a 68 to his opening 65 for a total of 11-under-par 133

The two men performed like actors asked to show their X-factor, the 18th green at Mount Juliet an amphitheatre packed full of expectations awaiting drama.

They didn’t disappoint. Firstly, Shane Lowry rolled in a 20-footer for a birdie — his fourth in a row of a remarkable finish — to ensure his survival in making the cut; then, just moments later, Séamus Power sank his own birdie putt to edge closer to contention in this Horizon Irish Open.

Poor old Tyrrell Hatton. He was like the gooseberry, the odd one out. But even he, destined to miss the cut, had as broad a grin as anybody. The roars of acclaim which had greeted Lowry’s heroics, and Power’s brilliance, were akin to the crowning of a champion.

On a Friday. If anything, it showed the DNA of this tournament, one which has always had passion at its core.

“I haven’t seen a reaction like that on a Friday in tournament golf as long as I have played. It was amazing,” said Power.

Spain’s Jorge Campillo assumed the 36-hole lead in adding a 68 to his opening 65 for a total of 11-under-par 133, yet his day’s work had long been completed before the pure theatre which featured Lowry and Power in creating emotional reactions, from the crowds and transferred to the players like an electric current.

For Power, a second successive round of 68 for 136 thrust him right into contention at a tournament where, two decades ago, he played the role of teenage volunteer. Now, Power is playing out that role of a main character and, just as he has done in each of his major championships this year, taking each stride with an ease that he has always belonged on this stage.

Power’s round — seven birdies, three bogeys — was one that, for the most part, had Lowry and Hatton cast aside as onlookers. Yet, to Lowry’s credit, he emerged from the shadows. With a missed cut staring him in the face, he reeled off four birdies to finish, kicked off by a brilliant approach shot played from a fairway bunker on the 15th.

On the 18th, a hole cumulatively ranked number one in toughest over the first two days, both players had approach shots of 180 yards and both used 8-irons as their weapon of choice. Lowry hit his 20 feet beyond and right of the pin; Power six feet below. Both holed the putts, providing those packed in the grandstands with, yes, grandstand finishes.

Power, a winner of the Barbasol on the PGA Tour almost exactly a year ago, and with five top-10 finishes since, has moved into a position to challenge over the weekend with Campillo in his sights: “My game feels in good shape and I feel in a good place mentally. They are two important factors, but you need stuff to go your way and we will see. The plan is to have a good (third) round so I have a chance to do something (Sunday),” said the Waterford native.

Ready to win again? Power was asked. “I do. But I’ve felt like that for a while ... some days, you just run into a guy who makes a lot of putts. Hopefully that’s going be me this week.”

Winning might be a bit of a stretch for Lowry, who shot a second round 70 for 141, three-under-par, which had him in tied-48th (in a group that also included Pádraig Harrington) but the manner of his finish only served to demonstrate how important it was for him to make the cut having missed out in his last outing at the US Open.

“I’m a long way back,” conceded Lowry, “and the gold course is probably playing too easy for me to make any sort of a run at this but I can definitely throw in a top-10 or a decent finish and that’s what I’m looking for. That putt on 18? I’ve holed putts at certain times in my career that have meant a lot, I go back to 18 at the Ryder Cup, but that is a big one to me that there today.”

Similarly to Lowry, Harrington too had shown his mettle to survive the cut. Running on empty at times this week in overcoming jet lag and the emotions of winning the US Senior Open, Harrington recovered from a late double-bogey on the seventh, his 16th hole, after his approach leaked right into trees and resulted in a penalty drop. But he birdied his two closing holes for a 71 for 141 to extend his work into the weekend.

As the weather closed in for the late finishers, Niall Kearney followed up his opening round 68 with a 74 for 142, two-under, which saw the Dubliner make the cut on the mark with no fewer than 78 players — exactly half the field — surviving and with Campillo the man to catch.

Philip Reid

Philip Reid

Philip Reid is Golf Correspondent of The Irish Times