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Shane Lowry Carries Irish Hopes at Royal Portrush

By: | Fri 19 Jul 2019

SHANE LOWRY dropped a shot at the final hole and missed his chance of leading The Open Championship at Royal Portrush on his own. Instead, his second 67 leaves him on eight under par, tied with American JB Holmes. 

Holmes maintained his challenge with a second-round 68 on Friday as a mass of players positioned themselves for a weekend charge. After his five-under 66 on the opening day Holmes made five more birdies to move to eight-under heading into the weekend.

As he walked off the 18th green in the rain he shared the lead with Lowry who began his second round in scintillating fashion with four birdies in his first six holes. Lowry then took the lead on his own with a birdie at the eighth and extended it to two with his sixth birdie of the day at the 10th.

Lowry's first dropped shot came at the 14th, moving him back to nine under, one ahead of Holmes. And he dropped another at the last after a poor approach.

"I had some great fun out there," Lowry said. "The fans were just amazing. I am a bit disappointed to drop that shot at the last, but I am exactly where I want to be. I will just go out there and soak it all up this weekend. There were moments today when I had to pinch myself. I am playing in Memphis next week and will probably be watched by one man and a dog, so I need to make the most of this."  

Holmes and Lowry were briefly joined by South Africa's Dylan Frittelli, who only qualified after winning the John Deere Classic on Sunday. He scrambled superbly for 16 holes, but he came to grief at the 17th, where he hit a wild drive and was unable to find his ball. It cost him a double-bogey six and moved him back to six under par.

England’s Tommy Fleetwood finished the day on seven under par after a second-round 67.

Fleetwood, who grew up playing links golf at Southport, delighted the crowd with a birdie on the 18th and he acknowledged the support by doffing his cap.

“Yesterday I felt like I was a lot more stress-free than today,” the popular Fleetwood said. “It’s not all going to be singing and dancing through a major.

“I’m happy that I had a chance to scrap today and actually did really well. Was up to the test.”
Fellow Englishman Lee Westwood, who has 18 top-10 finishes in majors without winning one, rolled back the years to move to seven under after a round of 67.

Westwood, 46, drained a monster birdie putt at the 16th and conjured up another birdie at 17 to move into the mix.

Justin Rose was another Englishman on the move, climbing up the leaderboard to six under.

Three-time major winner Jordan Spieth believes if he can get his radar zoned in, he will contend over the weekend. The 25-year-old carded a 67 thanks to an impressive run of an eagle and three birdies from the fifth before hanging on after the turn despite spraying the ball to all parts.

Spieth admits it was incredible he managed to post that score because of the way he was playing but he goes into the weekend at five under. 

When he won at Birkdale two years ago his strength was the consistency with which he hit fairways and greens, and he hopes to be able to regain some of that over the next two days.

“I felt like I played the easy holes well and then I avoided the pot bunkers today more than I did yesterday,” he said. “I think I hit maybe two or three fairways today. I mean, I posted a score that was pretty incredible from where I played my second shots from.

“I certainly found the rough more today than I did yesterday. At some point I hope to be playing off the short grass this week.

“Going into Birkdale, I was hitting it tee to green the best on Tour that season but that just hasn’t been my strength this year. My game is in a different place than it was then and I’m working to get it back to where it was then.

“But any time in an Open Championship that I’m in contention, I feel good about the potential of being able to make a run at it.”

With the wind down and the greens soft early, groups took advantage, none more so than South Africa’s Justin Harding who put together a superb 65 to move to six under. Australian Cameron Smith’s 66 moved him to six under.

World number one Brooks Koepka suffered another cool day with the putter but is five under after a 69.

“Right where I want to be and close enough to make a run this weekend,” Koepka, winner of four majors since 2017, said.

Jon Rahm, regarded by many as the favourite, had a disastrous start to his second round, running up a seven at the par-five second hole. But the fiery Spaniard kept his cool, recorded three birdies and finished with a 70. On four under par he is still in the thick of the action.

Among those who missed the cut were 15-time major championship Tiger Woods. He gave himself too much to do after an opening round of 78 and although there was a vast improvement as he recovered with a 70, on six over par, he was heading home to work out how he can balance his desire to win more majors with the reality that is his battered body.

“It’s more frustrating than anything else because this is a major championship and I love playing in these events,” said Woods. “I love the atmosphere. I love just the stress of playing in a major. And unfortunately, I’ve only had a chance to win one of them (this year) and was able to do it. But the other three I didn’t do very well,” he added.

Woods said that he had to accept that his days of being a consistent threat were now behind him.

“That’s one of the hardest things to accept as an older athlete is that you’re not going to be as consistent as you were at 23. Things are different,” he said. “I’m going to have my hot weeks. I’m going to be there in contention with a chance to win, and I will win tournaments. But there are times when I’m just not going to be there. 

Former champion Tom Lehman fought back the tears as he walked down the 18th fairway at Royal Portrush for what is likely to be his last Open Championship.

Lehman was a winner at Royal Lytham way back in 1996 but now he is 60 his exemption expires and if he wants to return he will have to qualify.

His score - 12 over par after adding 76 to his opening 78 - was irrelevant as the American soaked up the atmosphere and appreciation, with his son caddying.

“There was emotion for sure. You don’t really know how you’re going to react to the last thing of something and this one was very sweet and joyful,” he said.

“It was more emotional than I thought it would be. It was more. I did everything in my power not to start bawling walking down the 18th fairway. I didn’t totally succeed but I mostly succeeded. Tears of joy.”

Lehman was asked about his prospects of qualifying for future Opens. “I could still win a Senior Open. I told my wife if I could write the perfect script and play one more, I’d win so that I could play at St Andrews in two years.”

But late in the day, it was Rory McIlroy who electrified the record crowds and captivated those watching on television as he put together a courageous bid to qualify for the weekend. Making seven birdies to shoot 65 – including 31 on the back nine – the local favourite agonisingly missed the cut by one shot, following his disastrous 79 on Thursday.

It was not in the script for the four-time major champion, but the reception was rapturous, the atmosphere infectious, the support at a level that moved the 30-year-old who shared his emotion afterwards.

Now, he will step back and watch on as good friend Shane Lowry carries the wave of Irish backing into Saturday of this 148th Open Championship.

Image Credit: Kevin Diss Photography

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Tags: The Open Royal Portrush Northern Ireland Ireland

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