Shane Lowry looks to shrug off rustiness at Phoenix Open

Tiger Woods to play in Dubai Desert Classic as McDowell seeks to secure Augusta spot

Shane Lowry: said he was  “happy” with his week’s work at Torrey Pines. Photograph: William West/AFP/Getty Images

Shane Lowry: said he was “happy” with his week’s work at Torrey Pines. Photograph: William West/AFP/Getty Images

 

Shane Lowry will hope that his slip outside the world’s top 50, an unfamiliar position for the Offaly man in recent years, will be short-lived as he continues his early-season PGA Tour schedule at the Phoenix Open this week before playing in next week’s Pebble Beach Pro-Am. 

Lowry has not been outside the top 50 ranked players in the world since June 2014, rising as high as 17th in October 2015. However, his seasonal debut at the Farmers Insurance Open, where a final round 68 moved him up to tied 33rd, showed signs of rustiness after a nine-week winter lay-off. 

Lowry professed himself to be “happy” with his week’s work at Torrey Pines, which kickstarted a stretch of tournaments on the west coast. Lowry and Pádraig Harrington, who missed the cut in San Diego, are in the field in Phoenix, but Waterford’s Séamus Power, ninth alternate on his card status, failed to get in and will return to action in next week’s pro-am. 

Fortunately for Lowry, falling outside the world’s top-50 will not have any immediate ramifications as he is already in the field for the Masters and all of this year’s Majors.

World rankings

For Graeme McDowell, though, his quest to move up the world rankings is increasingly important as he seeks to earn a ticket to Augusta. 

McDowell is playing in the Dubai Desert Classic, a traditional stop-off for the Northern Irish man who has dropped to 95th in the latest world rankings. More pressingly, McDowell needs to break back into the world’s top 64 if he is to earn a spot in the field for the WGC-Dell Matchplay. There were signs in Qatar that his game was not too far from where he would want it to be. 

Patience is the key for McDowell. “I’ve tried to view it as a long road back toward the top of the game,” he said in Qatar. “That’s where I want to be again, give myself chances to win major championships. I know I’ve got a lot of things to work on and I’ve just been rededicating myself the last six or eight months, and mentally, I think, it’s really, really important that I stay super-patient with it.” 

McDowell is one of three Irish players in the field in Dubai, along with Paul Dunne and Darren Clarke, although Tiger Woods’s presence – as much as those of Open champion Henrik Stenson and Masters champion Danny Willett, who defends his title – will likely capture most of the limelight. 

‘Dumb mistakes’

Woods, who missed the cut in the Farmers Insurance Open, made the 17-hour flight to Dubai intent on eliminating what he termed “dumb mistakes” from his game.

“Playing tournament golf is a little bit different than playing with your buddies at home in a cart. I need to get more rounds under my belt, more playing time, and that’s what I’m trying to do,” said Woods, who will be jetting back to California for next week’s Pebble Beach Pro-Am. 

Meanwhile, Brendan McGovern’s bid to regain his European Seniors Tour card got off to a good start in qualifying school in Portugal on Monday. The Meath man opened with a five-under-par 65 that gave him a share of the first-round lead.

The 51-year-old club professional is one of 76 players chasing five tour cards at Pestana in Portugal.

“It’s different from a normal tournament and you have to realise it is for 72 holes. You can have a bad shot here and there, but there’s plenty of time to hit good shots. Attitude is more important than the golf at the moment. There’s a long way to go but I’ve kept myself in there,” said McGovern, who shared the lead with England’s Peter Wilson.

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