Lowry just a shot adrift of the lead

 

GOLF TOUR NEWS:REFRESHED, reinvigorated and ready for what the weekend will throw at him, Shane Lowry goes into today's third round just one shot behind the unheralded Rick Kulacz.

Lowry, on 11-under-par 132 alongside Sergio Garcia and Peter Hanson, had been on course to take a lead into "moving day" for the first time since he claimed the Irish Open as an amateur last May.

But a charge late in the day from Kulacz, who came home in just 30 blows for a 63, gave the Australian the outright lead in Abu Dhabi at the halfway stage.

Martin Kaymer, a former winner and the runner-up this time last year, also features on a congested leaderboard at 10 under while Lowry's close friend and former Irish amateur team-mate Rory McIlroy is within striking distance a shot further back.

Having enjoyed a productive winter break, where valuable conditioning work was undertaken away from the course under the guidance of former Irish rugby international Eric Miller, Lowry is now starting to look right at home in the cut and thrust of the professional ranks.

The 22-year-old has yet to post a top-10 finish since that remarkable weekend at Co Louth, but a flawless performance ensured a bogey-free round of 65 - he has dropped just one shot over the opening 36 holes - and propelled him up the standings.

Having started on the 10th with a cold putter - opportunities from within five feet were spurned at his first two holes - Lowry found his range on the 12th and immediately followed that up with another birdie.

With his iron play affording plenty of chances, Lowry rolled in three birdies in succession from the 18th before rounding off his day with a raking 50-foot putt on par-three seventh.

After his extended hiatus over Christmas, Lowry had expected a slow start to the new year and was pleasantly surprised to have found form so early in the season.

"I came into this week without too many expectations after a long winter break, but I managed to find some confidence at the start of the week and I played nicely over the last couple of days and I have managed to hole some putts," said Lowry.

"It is a little bit of a surprise to make such a good start, but I have just tried to play as well as I can and I haven't made too many mistakes and I've only made one bogey in two rounds."

McIlroy, for all his excellent iron play, could be forgiven for reflecting on what might have been after a number of missed birdie putts from inside six feet stymied his progress.

Nevertheless, with just three shots to make up, the 20-year-old Holywood star will fancy his chances of claiming a second European Tour title.

Kulacz's round was made more remarkable by the fact he was so unhappy with his pre-tournament practice he phoned his coach back home to iron out the flaws in his game. "I was just in the zone. I tried to get it on the green and every putt went in, it was just one of those days where everything went right," he said.

Garcia followed Thursday's 66 with a promising 67. After picking up shots at three of his opening four holes, the Spaniard posted three other birdies with his solitary bogey coming at the fifth hole.

While Irish golf's young guns were blazing a trail at the business end of the leaderboard, the likes of Darren Clarke and Graeme McDowell struggled to keep in touch. Clarke made the cut right on the number alongside Peter Lawrie on two under but McDowell (one under), Michael Hoey (level par), Gareth Maybin (six over) and Damien McGrane (eight over) will have the weekend off.


Golf Scorecards

Second round

Par 72

132 - R Kulacz (Aus) 69 63. 133 - P Hanson (Swe) 66 67, Shane Lowry(Irl) 68 65, S Garcia (Spa) 66 67. 134 - C Wood 70 64, M Kaymer (Ger) 67 67, R Davies 66 68 135 - Rory McIlroy(NIrl) 66 69, I Poulter 65 70, R Green (Aus) 70 65, A Canete (Arg) 70 65, E Molinari (Ita) 69 66. 136 - D Vancsik (Arg) 66 70, F Molinari (Ita) 68 68, P Lawrie 66 70, A Quiros (Spa) 66 70. 137 - H Otto (Rsa) 70 67, T Aiken (Rsa) 67 70, S Webster 68 69, J Huldahl (Den) 70 67, R Finch 69 68, K Horne (Rsa) 65 72. 138 - M Warren 69 69, M Ilonen (Fin) 71 67, P Waring 68 70, L Oosthuizen (Rsa) 67 71, M Foster 68 70. 139 - R Bland 65 74, A Hansen (Den) 69 70, S Hansen (Den) 72 67, D Horsey 73 66, N Dougherty 71 68, S Dyson 72 67, T Jaidee (Tha) 69 70, J Edfors (Swe) 70 69, A Wall 71 68, S Dodd 66 73, J Donaldson 70 69, C Villegas (Col) 71 68. 140 - G Orr 69 71, B Rumford (Aus) 71 69, A Kim (USA) 70 70, A Noren (Swe) 66 74, D Dixon 71 69, J Kamte (Rsa) 72 68, M Fraser (Aus) 71 69, R McGowan 69 71. 141 - C Montgomerie 73 68, D Howell 69 72, G Ogilvy (Aus) 72 69, P Broadhurst 71 70, T Bjorn (Den) 71 70, P Casey 72 69, T Goya (Arg) 71 70, B Dredge 68 73. 142 - M Lundberg (Swe) 71 71, S Kjeldsen (Den) 70 72, M Erlandsson (Swe) 74 68, M Manassero (Ita) 70 72, T Hamilton (USA) 68 74, R Echenique (Arg) 67 75, Peter Lawrie(Irl) 71 71, P Hedblom (Swe) 72 70, P Larrazabal (Spa) 73 69, R Karlsson (Swe) 72 70, P Marksaeng (Tha) 70 72, N Fasth (Swe) 73 69, R Cabrera Bello (Spa) 74 68, H Stenson (Swe) 70 72, J Milkha Singh (Ind) 73 69, S Kapur (Ind) 68 74, P Price 72 70, Darren Clarke(NIrl) 70 72, R Jacquelin (Fra) 74 68.

Missed the cut:143 - Graeme McDowell(NIrl) 70 73, M Lafeber (Ned) 72 71, K Ferrie 73 70, M Brown (Nzl) 71 72, S Benson 71 72, O Fisher 73 70, F Aguilar (Chi) 72 71, D Drysdale 71 72, M Brier (Aut) 73 70, G Bourdy (Fra) 73 70, S Little 72 71. 144 - C Nilsson (Swe) 75 69, O Wilson 75 69, S Jeppesen (Swe) 74 70, S Chowrasia (Ind) 72 72, D Lynn 71 73, A McLardy (Rsa) 69 75, R Gonzalez (Arg) 73 71, D Lee (Nzl) 72 72, S Gallacher 70 74, G Fdez-Castano (Spa) 71 73, J Randhawa (Ind) 70 74, Michael Hoey(NIrl) 72 72 145 - R Rock 73 72, R Ramsay 75 70, I Garrido (Spa) 70 75, G Storm 71 74, B Lane 70 75. 146 MA Jimenez (Spa) 72 74, J Bickerton 75 71. 147 - R Jan Derksen (Ned) 73 74, L Westwood 69 78 148 - C Cevaer (Fra) 73 75, A Al Musharrekh (UAE) 77 71, M Jonzon (Swe) 72 76, O Al Mulla (Ksa) 75 73, G Havret (Fra) 75 73. 149 - G Lockerbie 73 76, F Delamontagne (Fra) 75 74, O Henningsson (Swe) 78 71. 150 - R Sheridan 73 77, Gareth Maybin(NIrl) 75 75, F Zanotti (Par) 74 76, A Forsyth 75 75, D Willett 77 73. 151 - M Siem (Ger) 75 76. 152 - A Kang (USA) 76 76, Damien McGrane(Irl) 79 73, T Levet (Fra) 73 79. 153 - J Lara (Spa) 78 75 158 - J Lucquin (Fra) 73 85. 160 - M Campbell (Nzl) 83 77.