Shane Lowry sets himself up for weekend run at Valspar Championship

Irish golfer trails Matthew NeSmith by nine strokes as Graeme McDowell misses cut

Shane Lowry hardly put a foot wrong in the second round of the Valspar Championship, where a bogey-free 68 for a midway total of five-under-par 137 on the Copperhead course at Innisbrook resort in Florida ensured he comfortably survived the cut and can aim at a weekend charge.

In near perfect conditions of sunshine and barely a breath of wind, scoring was low with Canadian Adam Hadwin claiming the clubhouse lead in adding a 66 to his opening 64 for 12-under-par 130, a stroke clear of defending champion Sam Burns and veteran Scott Stallings, with Justin Thomas a stroke further back after successive 66s.

Lowry, who started on the 10th, claimed back-to-back birdies on the 13th and 14th to get off to a strong start. On the par-three 13th, his tee-shot came up three feet short of the pin and he calmly rolled in the birdie putt; then, on the par-five 14th, his three-wood approach found a greenside bunker and, after splashing to nine feet, he rolled in the putt.

Although he gave himself a number of chances, Lowry managed only one further birdie – on the par-five first, where he was on the green in two and two-putted from 35 feet – to make it into the weekend but playing a game of catch up.

For Graeme McDowell, however, it proved to be a frustrating round. After starting with a bogey on the 10th, the Northern Irishman got momentum going with birdies on the 12th, 15th and 18th to turn in 33 and raise hopes of surviving the cut. But a homeward run, which failed to yield a birdie, and incurring bogeys on the second and fifth, saw him ultimately sign for a 71 for 144.

Hadwin, who hasn’t won on tour since lifting the 2017 Valspar, continued his fondness for the layout with a round that included six birdies and a lone bogey.

“My mind has been pretty good this week, staying patient, not getting too worried about any sort of missed shots or anything,” he said.

“I was fairly average for the first few holes. It didn’t really kick off until I made a par save on seven and then got a few putts to go in . . . my putting, it’s tremendous. It’s what won me the tournament five years ago, it’s been a strong part of my game for the last four, five years now, and I’m finally starting to see some improvement with the iron play, hitting more greens, giving myself more chances. So, again, [it’s about] staying patient around this place I think is key.”

Currently ranked 132nd in the world and coming in off a top-10 finish at The Players, where he admitted looking too often at the leaderboard got into his head a little bit, Hadwin added: “I’m in a great spot to try and go win another golf tournament.”

Matthew NeSmith stormed up the leaderboard with five birdies in his final seven holes to post a career-low round of 61, taking the lead into the weekend.

Among those also in contention is Thomas, who is also eager to get back to winning ways. His last win came in last year’s Players, so he has gone just over a year without another victory.

“I feel like I’ve been trending in the right direction. I feel like I’m really close to playing some good golf and getting on a run and winning some tournaments,” he said. “But, that being said, it doesn’t mean that it’s going to happen. I’m not owed anything . . . at this point, it’s about staying in that focus and really just trying to execute each shot.”

In the Steyn City Championship in Johannesburg, a co-sanctioned tournament on the DP World and Sunshine Tours, South African Shaun Norris produced a sizzling 62 for a midway total of 126, 18 under par, which gave him a three-stroke lead over James Hart du Preez heading into the weekend.

With his younger brother Kyle on his bag, Norris had only one piece of advice to offer before the round: “I said to him, ‘let’s go out and have some fun’. Overall my game was great and I gave myself a lot of chances. I’m smiling out there and I’m very happy,” said Norris of a round which brought an eagle and eight birdies.

Jonathan Caldwell, the only Irish player in the field, couldn't recover from an opening 77 and added a 72 for 149 to miss the cut by 10 shots.

Palm Harbor Collated Collated second round scores & totals in the USPGA Tour Valspar Championship Innisbrook Resort, Palm Harbor, Florida, United States of America

(USA unless stated, Par 71):

128 Matthew NeSmith 67 61

130 Adam Hadwin (Can) 64 66

131 Sam Burns 64 67, Scott Stallings 65 66

132 Justin Thomas 66 66

133 Davis Riley 65 68

134 Xander Schauffele 67 67, Webb Simpson 67 67, Brian Harman 67 67

135 Troy Merritt 68 67, Louis Oosthuizen (Rsa) 67 68, Jhonattan Vegas (Ven) 64 71, Richy Werenski 65 70, Gary Woodland 67 68, Stewart Cink 67 68, Matthew Fitzpatrick (Eng) 67 68, Martin Kaymer (Ger) 69 66, Tommy Fleetwood (Eng) 67 68, David Lipsky 64 71

136 Joseph Bramlett 69 67, Kevin Kisner 70 66, Patton Kizzire 69 67, Kevin Streelman 67 69, Tyrrell Hatton (Eng) 68 68

137 Kiradech Aphibarnrat (Tha) 69 68, Brandon Hagy 70 67, Kramer Hickok 66 71, Pat Perez 67 70, Brian Stuard 68 69, Seung-Yul Noh (Kor) 70 67, Brooks Koepka 67 70, Chengtsung Pan (Tai) 71 66, Bill Haas 71 66, Brandon Wu 72 65, Joel Dahmen 68 69, Shane Lowry (Irl) 69 68, Robert Streb 68 69

138 Alexander Noren (Swe) 68 70, Doc Redman 66 72, J. J. Spaun 67 71, Tyler Duncan 69 69, John Huh 71 67, Dustin Johnson 67 71, Brice Garnett 67 71, Collin Morikawa 68 70, Michael Thompson 72 66, Harry Higgs 70 68, Sahith Theegala 67 71

139 Danny Lee (Nzl) 65 74, Greyson Sigg 67 72, Christiaan Bezuidenhout (Rsa) 70 69, Blake Kennedy 67 72, Austin Smotherman 68 71, Ryan Brehm 71 68, Wesley Bryan 68 71, Luke Donald (Eng) 68 71, Viktor Hovland (Nor) 69 70, Russell Knox (Sco) 71 68, Denny McCarthy 69 70, Chez Reavie 67 72, Henrik Stenson (Swe) 70 69, Nick Taylor (Can) 69 70, Cameron Tringale 68 71, Matt Kuchar 67 72, Nate Lashley 71 68, Guillermo Mito Pereira (Chi) 69 70, Harold Varner III 72 67, Bernd Wiesberger (Aut) 69 70, Paul Barjon (Fra) 68 71, Adam Svensson (Can) 71 68, Max McGreevy 70 69, Curtis Thompson 70 69

The following players missed the cut

140 Keegan Bradley 70 70, Adam Long 70 70, Henrik Norlander (Swe) 68 72, Sean O’Hair 73 67, Scott Piercy 73 67, Roger Sloan (Can) 71 69, Bubba Watson 68 72, Danny Willett (Eng) 70 70, Matt Wallace (Eng) 69 71, Luke Guthrie 69 71

141 James Hahn 70 71, Mackenzie Hughes (Can) 71 70, Kelly Kraft 69 72, William McGirt 67 74, J. T. Poston 69 72, Sam Ryder 69 72, Kyle Stanley 73 68, Jimmy Walker 68 73, Aaron Wise 69 72, Dylan Wu 70 71, Carlos Ortiz (Mex) 71 70

142 Abraham Ancer (Mex) 70 72, Zach Johnson 73 69, Martin Laird (Sco) 73 69, Andrew Landry 68 74, Hank Lebioda 70 72, Jason Day (Aus) 70 72, Callum Tarren (Eng) 75 67, Chun-Ant Yu (Tai) 72 70

143 Brian Gay 73 70, Vincent Whaley 74 69, Brendon Todd 70 73, Alex Smalley 70 73, Alex Fitzpatrick (Eng) 71 72, Lee Hodges 69 74, Matthias Schwab (Aut) 71 72, Andrew McCain 74 69, Andrew Novak 73 70

144 Branden Grace (Rsa) 71 73, Emiliano Grillo (Arg) 72 72, Jim Herman 69 75, Graeme McDowell (NIrl) 73 71, Vaughn Taylor 72 72, Stephan Jaeger (Ger) 76 68, Hayden Buckley 72 72, Mark Hensby (Aus) 70 74, Seth Reeves 72 72, Jackson Suber 70 74

145 Wyndham Clark 68 77, Jason Kokrak 71 74, Charl Schwartzel (Rsa) 76 69, Davis Love III 73 72, Greg Koch 71 74, Taylor Moore 71 74

146 Chesson Hadley 73 73, Peter Malnati 71 75, Kurt Kitayama 76 70

147 Cameron Percy (Aus) 76 71, Adam Schenk 72 75, Martin Trainer 72 75

148 Austin Cook 74 74, Chad Ramey 75 73, Tommy Gainey 70 78

149 Andrew Putnam 74 75, Trey Mullinax 75 74

150 Bronson Burgoon 76 74, Lanto Griffin 72 78

151 Charley Hoffman 77 74

152 Sung-Hoon Kang (Kor) 75 77, Francesco Molinari (Ita) 76 76

153 Omar Uresti 78 75

154 Jonas Blixt (Swe) 73 81

ends

Philip Reid

Philip Reid

Philip Reid is Golf Correspondent of The Irish Times