For someone with match play as an integral part of his golfing DNA, Shane Lowry has found the WGC-Dell Technologies stop at Austin Country Club each year to be something of a rude awakening. In this last edition as a part of the PGA Tour’s schedule, the championship once again proved to be a familiar tale of woe as he failed to move beyond the group phase.
Having lost his opening-round match to Taylor Montgomery, Lowry went into his match against Mackenzie Hughes needing a win to keep any hopes alive. It was not to be. Lowry was outplayed by the Canadian to the extent that it was all over on the 15th green, as Hughes claimed a comfortable 4 and 3 win.
“It certainly gives you a boost, beating a guy like Shane Lowry who’s an Open champion (in 2019) and has a great resume. Those are always feathers in the cap,” admitted Hughes.
Lowry – who has sights on being part of Europe’s Ryder Cup team in Rome later this year – failed to bounce back from that initial group loss to Montgomery and handed the initiative to his opponent, as bogeys on the first and fourth had him two-down which was almost as good as it got.
Hughes went birdie-eagle-birdie from the fifth in a hot streak that moved him five holes clear, and although Lowry managed to reduce the gap to three with an eagle of his own on the 12th, he drove into the water on the 13th and Hughes reclaimed the momentum to kick on clear.
Although Lowry will have the chance to salvage some pride in the final group match against Jordan Spieth, saving face is all that it will mean as he can’t progress out of the group. Instead, Lowry will go into a free week – he is not playing in next week’s Valero Texas Open – as he prepares for the upcoming Masters tournament at Augusta National.
Lowry wasn’t alone in exiting ahead of the last group phase. Viktor Hovland and Will Zalatoris were among others to go zero for two and head into their final group matches fighting for pride alone.
While Lowry exited ahead of planned, Séamus Power fought the good fight to keep his hopes of escaping the group alive.
Power – who lost on the 18th hole to Adam Scott in his first-round match – enjoyed a ding-dong battle with Canada’s Adam Hadwin before making a great up and down on the 18th for a birdie to win by one hole.
The Waterford man was two holes up through seven but lost the eighth and ninth to turn level. Power went back one up on the 10th only to lose back to back holes on 11 and 12 to fall behind. However, he levelled matters again on the 13th before falling behind again on the 15th and then going all square again on the 16th.
But Power’s birdie finish enabled him to claim the win over Hadwin and set up a final-round match with Sam Burns – two from two – which he must win to force a playoff to determine the group winner. Burns only requires a halved match to advance.
Of being in control of his own destiny, Burns observed: “I think it’s great. We’ll take the same mindset as we did today; just go out there and compete each and every hole, each and every shot and see what happens in the end!”
Power, who is aiming to make his Ryder Cup debut in Rome in October, demonstrated the key attribute in match play of fighting to the end: “I knew I had to win that hole, so it was nice to sneak it in. Yeah, a lot of work to do tomorrow. Obviously Sam is a great player, so I’m looking forward to the challenge.”
Meanwhile, Leona Maguire opened her defence of the LPGA Drive On Championship at Gold Canyon in Arizona with a two-under-par 70 that left the Cavan golfer four shots adrift of clubhouse leader Wei-Ling Hsu.
On the DP World Tour, Tom McKibbin – continuing his strong start to his rookie season – opened with a four-under-par 68 in the Jonsson Workwear Open at The Club at Steyn in Johannesburg where South Africans Darren Fichardt and Martin Vorster shared the first-round lead with 64s.