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Wednesday, May 12, 2021

Lowry soars into contention with an eagle and near ace at RBC Heritage

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Shane Lowry superbly shook-off any lingering Masters hangover, soaring on day two with an eagle and a near ace to be in contention heading to the weekend rounds at the RBC Heritage Classic in South Carolina.

Lowry brilliantly eagled the second and then grabbed five birdies in a nine-hole run from the fourth to 12th holes in a six-under par 65 for a seven-under tally on the Harbour Town course at Hilton Head. Lowry’s effort, with stand-in South African caddy Gary Matthews calling the shots, saw the Clara golfer in the clubhouse only four behind early leader Corey Conners of Canada. Conners had doubled his fifth hole but stormed home on the back of six inward half birdies in a 64 to lead at 11-under par.

However after the afternoon wave completed their second rounds, it was Stewart Cink who sets a lofty target after he broke the 36-hole scoring record at Hilton Head with successive rounds of 63. At 16-under par, the American holds a five-stroke lead at the halfway stage over Connors with Lowry nine back.

“It doesn’t feel like anything all that special to be honest,” said Cink. “We just kind of worked our game plan. I don’t know. We haven’t had too much wind, and so this course without a lot of wind, there’s just not that many surprises when you have a lot of experience around here, and I think we’ve kind of gotten what we expected out of most of our shots, and we’ve put it in the right place a lot, and really the key is we haven’t put it in the wrong place very often. Good execution has led to some good scores.”

Lowry’s round is his lowest in 18-months on the PGA Tour since a closing 65 in the October 2019 ZoZo Championship in Japan. The reigning Open Champion arrived in the popular South Carolina golfing destination having finished T21st at the Masters and with the uncertainty of being without his full-time caddy. Both his caddy, Bo Martin and long-time coach, Neil Manchip were returning to Ireland to avoid Thursday’s new Irish Government ruling that anyone arriving from the US into Ireland must self-isolate for 10-days in an official quarantined controlled hotel.

Fortunately, Martin was able to arrange for Matthews, who had been caddying at Augusta for super-talented Chilean Joachim Niemann who is having this week off, with Lowry unsure immediately post the Masters if Martin could legally return to the US. And the good news for Lowry is that he received word from Martin he will be able to reunite with Lowry at his next event, the 6th to 9th May Wells Fargo Championship in suburban Charlotte, North Carolina.

“It was great to know before leaving Augusta that Bo had organised Gary to caddy for me this week, so that was a great help,” said Lowry. “And now the good news is that Bo is able to travel back to the States and he’ll team-up with me at Quail Hollow for the Wells Fargo which will be my next event.”

Lowry was clearly very much at ease on the tight, tree-lines and alligators abound Harbour Town course as evident in splitting the fairway with a 319-drive down the second, landing his second shot to six-feet and knocking in the eagle ‘3’ putt.

“The eagle got me going and I hit a nice drive down there and hit an 8-iron to about six feet and holed that,” he said.

Lowry dropped a shot at the third but it was forward gears from there on in, sensationally landing his tee-shot at the par-3 fourth hole onto the island-like green with Lowry’s ball rolling some 10-feet but stopping five inches shy of the cup. Lowry also birdied the fifth to move to three-under and then went within two-feet of an ace at the par-3 seventh for another birdie. He then also birdied nine and 12 ahead of six closing pars.

“I’m pretty happy with a 65 as we definitely looked to have got the worst side of the draw as the wind was pumping yesterday afternoon and this morning it was pretty windy early on,” he said. “It also looks like it’s supposed to drop this afternoon.

“So, I knew I needed to go out there and shoot a decent number if I was going to put myself up there for the weekend, so nice to go out and do it. After the eagle on two, I hit a bad tee shot on the next and made a bad bogey, but other than that I hit it close a couple times after that. It wasn’t anything outrageous. It was just some good golf and I cleaned up my putts nicely. Yeah, it was nice.”

Former RBC Heritage winner Graeme McDowell missed the cut with rounds of 73 and 71.

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