When the 65th stroke of his round fell into the tin cup of the 18th green at Kasumigaseki Golf Club, Shane Lowry grasped his caddie’s hand and followed up with a friendly brotherly elbow gently into Alan’s midriff. Their smiles to each other matched, only confirming a good day’s work that had brought the sniff of a medal.
In fact, Lowry’s effort - a second round 65 for a midway total of seven-under par 135 - brought him level with the other Irish player in the field, as Rory McIlroy, despite a bogey finish, also brought himself into contention with an excellent 66 for 135, which ultimately left them in tied-seventh, four shots behind midway leader Xander Schauffele of the United States.
Schauffele produced a remarkable finish - going eagle-par-birdie-birdie-birdie - in his final five holes to come home in 30 strokes for a second round 63 for 131, which gave the American a one stroke lead over Mexican Carlos Ortiz.
Play was suspended for the day when a second weather front closed in on the area, with Masters champion Hideki Matsuyama - on eight-under through 16 holes of his second round - among a handful of players who will complete their rounds on Saturday morning ahead of the scheduled third round.
Lowry’s round - seven birdies and one bogey, highlighted by a run of three successive birdies from the sixth - was one of sublime iron play and, for the most part, his putter proved an obedient ally on the greens.
The one issue Lowry had was with his driver and he opted to use three-wood off the tee on the softened course on a number of occasions and to good effect.
In moving into a challenging position for a medal of whatever hue, Lowry observed: “When you’re out there, you’re playing for yourself and playing for your country, that’s what I’m out there for. Playing for my family and friends and my town where I grew up and I would love to be able to bring a medal back home. That’s the reason I came here this week and that’s my number one motivation . . . my ultimate goal is to bring a medal home and that’s (it). I’ve done a good job of that the last two days and need to do a good job the next two days as well.”
McIlroy’s hot run which propelled him into contention came with a birdie-birdie-eagle run from the sixth. “The goal today was to sort of get back in touch . . . I just wanted to get into contention going into the weekend and at least feel like I was still part of the tournament and I’ve done that,” said McIlroy, who added it would be “unbelievable” if both he and Lowry could manage to get on the medal podium.
Certainly, McIlroy has embraced the Olympics since getting to compete and assessed that his pre-tournament views were perhaps used as a motivation tool. As he put it, “When you sort of approach tournaments like that, it’s funny how you end up playing some of your best golf . . . I never obviously competed in an Olympic Games. I watched from afar but being part of something that’s completely different and bigger than me and even our sport in general, that’s a pretty cool thing. I didn’t know if this was going to be my only Olympics that I play or whatever and I’m already looking forward to Paris (in 2024).”
Scores after round two (Play suspended due to adverse weather, will restart Friday 11.45pm Irish time)
131 Xander Schauffele (USA) 68 63
132 Carlos Ortiz (Mex) 65 67
134 Sepp Straka (Aut) 63 71, Guillermo Mito Pereira (Chi) 69 65, Alexander Noren (Swe) 67 67
135 Shane Lowry (Irl) 70 65, Rory McIlroy (Irl) 69 66, Jazz Janewattananond (Tha) 64 71
136 Sebastian Munoz (Col) 67 69, Guido Migliozzi (Ita) 71 65, Rory Sabbatini (Svk) 69 67, Jhonattan Vegas (Ven) 66 70
137 Thomas Detry (Bel) 70 67, Antoine Rozner (Fra) 68 69, Viktor Hovland (Nor) 68 69, Adria Arnaus (Spa) 68 69
138 Cameron Smith (Aus) 71 67, Matthias Schwab (Aut) 69 69, Abraham Ancer (Mex) 69 69
139 Joachim B. Hansen (Den) 66 73, Romain Langasque (Fra) 69 70, Tommy Fleetwood (Gbr) 70 69, Rikuya Hoshino (Jpn) 71 68, Juvic Pagunsan (Phi) 66 73, Si-Woo Kim (Kor) 68 71, Collin Morikawa (USA) 69 70, Patrick Reed (USA) 68 71
140 Sami Valimaki (Fin) 70 70, Fabrizio Zanotti (Pry) 73 67, Scott Vincent (Zim) 73 67
141 Thomas Pieters (Bel) 65 76, Mackenzie Hughes (Can) 69 72, Rasmus Hoejgaard (Den) 73 68, Renato Paratore (Ita) 71 70, Henrik Norlander (Swe) 68 73
142 Maximilian Kieffer (Ger) 73 69, Garrick Higgo (Rsa) 71 71
143 Ashun Wu (Chn) 72 71, Kalle Samooja (Fin) 75 68, Sung-Jae Im (Kor) 70 73
145 Udayan Mane (Ind) 76 69, Jorge Campillo (Spa) 70 75
146 Rafael Campos (Pur) 73 73
149 Ondrej Lieser (Cze) 72 77