Shane Lowry leads Wales Open by one

Offaly golfer carded a 65 at Celtic Manor to stay ahead of Nicolas Colsaerts and Joost Luiten

Shane Lowry of Ireland tee’s off at the seventh during the second round of the ISPS Handa Wales Open at Celtic Manor Resort. Photograph: Richard Heathcote/Getty Images

Shane Lowry of Ireland tee’s off at the seventh during the second round of the ISPS Handa Wales Open at Celtic Manor Resort. Photograph: Richard Heathcote/Getty Images

 

Ireland’s Shane Lowry is the halfway leader after the second round of the ISPS Handa Wales Open at Celtic Manor.

Lowry, who won the Irish Open as an amateur in 2009 and the Portugal Masters in 2012, carded a flawless 65 to claim a one-shot lead over Nicolas Colsaerts and Joost Luiten, with former champion Thongchai Jaidee and Italy’s Edoardo Molinari another shot back.

“I’m pretty happy,” Lowry said. “I’ve never, ever done well here before so to be leading after two rounds is nice. Still a long way to go in the tournament but I’m really looking forward to the weekend. I felt like coming here I could give it a go this week. I was around 10th going into the back nine on Sunday last week and similar the week before in Switzerland so if I can get myself in a good position come the back nine this weekend, again, hopefully I can give it a go.”

Lowry reached the turn in 33 after birdies at two, six and eight, before coming home in 32 thanks to three more at 10, 13 and 15 for a total of 133.

Luiten was considered for a Ryder Cup wild card after finishing 15th in the points standings, one place above Lee Westwood who edged out Luke Donald for the final pick.

The 28-year-old finished fourth in the Italian Open and fifth in the defence of his KLM Open title last week and said: “If it had come a couple of weeks earlier I would have been right in there for a pick but I knew I had not played well enough for the last two-and-a-half months of the qualifying.

“I don’t have the experience that the other guys have and I think that’s where I lost it on really. I couldn’t argue with it.”

Colsaerts has not won since the Volvo World Match Play Championship in 2012 which secured his Ryder Cup place that year, but eagled the par-five 18th for the second day running in his round of 68.

“It would mean a lot to win again after two years and struggling the first few months of the season,” Colsaerts said. “Today I started very nicely but made two silly mistakes in the middle of the round and I almost lost it but it was nice to hole that putt on the last. It was about 35 feet with eight feet of break.”

Simon Thornton was the only other Irish man on the right side of par, thanks a 69 that left him two under, while Damien McGrane, right on the cut mark of one over, just scraped into the weekend’s play.

Michael Hoey (71) and Gareth Maybin finished three over and four over respectively. Kevin Phelan (seven over), David Higgins (eight over) and Peter Lawrie (nine over) all finished well adrift.

Ryder Cup wild cards Stephen Gallacher and Westwood experienced differing results but similar emotions.

While Gallacher headed home in relaxed mood despite seeing his preparations cut short by missing the halfway cut, Westwood was equally happy that a battling performance ensured he would have two more rounds to get his game into shape for Gleneagles.

Gallacher had not played competitively since coming agonisingly close to sealing an automatic place on the European team before being named as one of captain Paul McGinley’s three wild cards. The rust showed as he struggled to an opening 78 on Thursday with seven bogeys and no birdies, and a second round of 70 was not enough to avoid an early exit.

“Yesterday was quite tough,” Gallacher admitted after a round containing two birdies — both on par fives — and one bogey. “It was tough to get going and get my head around it but today was a lot better. I was maybe trying a wee bit too hard yesterday and still thinking about next week. Today I got into my routines better and stuck to that. Nothing could get into my head apart from that. It was back to normal and if I holed a few putts I would have shot four or five under. It was good to shoot one under from a personal point of view.

“I feel good, I’m physically and mentally good so I am really looking forward to next week. I’ll get up the road this afternoon and relax this weekend and maybe play nine holes with Thomas (Bjorn) on Monday morning. I’ve done my preparation for it and I just want to get up there and get going.”

Westwood had also not played competitively since bowing out of the FedEx Cup play-offs after the first event, but recovered from an opening 73 with a 69 which featured two crucial birdies in the last four holes.

“I needed a couple more rounds,” Westwood said. “I was not particularly competitive yesterday, it was pretty scratchy, but today was more solid. A few iffy shots but it was nice to finish with two birdies in the last four holes to ensure being here for the weekend and two more competitive rounds.

“I have been working on my game and been in the gym quite a lot, but I’m not quite match fit. I had three weeks off and you lose your sharpness.” Team-mate Thomas Bjorn, who played alongside Gallacher, added a 69 to his opening 71 to lie two under par, with Jamie Donaldson carding an impressive 67 to finish five under, four behind Lowry.

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