Shane Lowry finally got the Irish flag flying near the top of the leaderboard to be just outside the top-10 heading to the closing two rounds of the WGC – FedEx St. Jude Invitational in Memphis.
Lowry posted a one-under par 69 to move to three-under par, trailing eight shots behind American Brendon Todd who heads the $US10.5m event
Todd, 35, added a five-under 65 to his opening 64 to move to 11-under par and two shots clear of Rickie Fowler (67).
Todd has already won twice on the PGA Tour’s 2019/20 wraparound season with two victories in a three-week span last November and now the Pittsburgh-born golfer is well in line for a third.
In stark contrast Lowry, like fellow Irishman and Open Champion Rory McIlroy, just wants to get going since the June 11th lifting of the US golfing lockdown.
The Clara golfer has played five events since teeing-up in Ft. Worth in securing a best of T39th in the Work Day Charity Open but he’s also missed the halfway cut in three.
“It was fine out there today as I drove it well off the tee and I struggled with my iron play,” said Lowry.
“I didn’t hit many great iron shots, put myself in a couple of bad positions, but a couple of good par saves coming down the last few holes.
“So, I’m not too pleased, but I’m in a decent position, I suppose, going into the weekend.
“If I can go out and shoot a decent number tomorrow [Saturday] and give myself a chance on Sunday, I’ll be pretty happy.”
Lowry started his round from the 10th and capped his day early on with a stunning 53-foot chip-in for birdie at the par-4 12th and then grabbed further birdies at the 16th and 17th holes or the seventh and eighth of his round.
He dropped shots at the 18th or his ninth and then played the inward half in one-over thanks to eight pars and a bogey at the third hole or the 12th of his day.
Graeme McDowell is just a shot further back in signing for a 70 to remain at two-under par.
GMac got his round off to a great start in rolling-in a 23-footer for a birdie ‘3’ at the first hole but it turned no frills from thereon in dropping a shot at seven and then posting 11 straight pars.
And Rory McIlroy dragged himself off the bottom rungs of the no-cut event to be just outside the top-30 having signed for a four-under par 66, seven shots fewer than Thursday’s disappointing 73.
It still leaves him 10 shots adrift of Todd but just four outside the top-10 with two rounds to play.
McIlroy had been strongly criticised by SKY Sports Golf analyst, Paul McGinley during Thursday’s round with McGinley not holding back in declaring he’d heard enough of the four-time Major’s ‘excuses’.
“He hasn’t had it the last five or six weeks”, said McGinley. “It’s not the same Rory McIlroy we saw before.
“So, he has got to figure out a way. Maybe the fact that (Jon) Rahm has come in and knocked him off his perch at No. 1 might help him. Maybe the fact that there’s a Major championship again next week. But he is talking about not having the same desire, that’s it not the same without the crowds.
“There are excuses all the time. And we are not hearing that from Rahm. He is getting stuck in. That’s what you’ve got to do. These are different times. There are Major championships to be won, big events to be won and if you can’t do it without a crowd, you have got to find a way of self-motivating and that is going to be the big challenge for McIlroy.
“Rory’s talking about not having the same desire, that’s it not the same without the crowds. There are excuses all the time. And we are not hearing that from Jon Rahm. He is getting stuck in.”
Friday’s showing was a good start.
Full scoring HERE