Lowry & McIlroy move into medal contention in Tokyo as Schauffele leads

John Shortt

Shane Lowry with his caddy and brother Alan Lowry on the 9th hole at the Kasumigaseki Country Club during the 2020 Tokyo Summer Olympic Games in Kawagoe, Saitama, Japan. (Photo By Stephen McCarthy/Sportsfile via Getty Images)

John Shortt

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There were more delays on day two of the Men’s Olympics Golf with a 2.5 hour suspension  of play during the day due to a threat of lightning at Kasumigaseki Country Club and play was suspended for the day at around 5pm local time with some 16 players yet to fully complete their second round after more weather issues.

Prior to the mid-round suspension, the Team Ireland golfers were making their move up the leaderboard with Rory McIlroy 4-under for his round through 13 holes and Shane Lowry one shot further back after 12. The delay certainly didn’t affect their momentum however as both players resumed with birdies on the 13th and 14th holes respectively and finished strongly with both now on 7-under par and in tied 7th position, just four off the lead held America’s Xander Schauffele.

Reflecting on his 5-under par round McIlroy said: “It felt good. It didn’t feel much different to yesterday as I felt like I played well yesterday I just didn’t score as well as I could have. I knew the good golf was in there and it was nice to see some of that today.”

After 3-putting the 6th on day one McIlroy drove the green on day two and two-putted for birdie which really got the momentum going;

“Yeah, I 3-putted that green yesterday so I was thinking about that and thinking ‘Please don’t 3-putt that green again’, so it was nice to hole the second putt. That certainly gave me some momentum and I hit a good tee shot on seven and got eagle on eight which was great.”

As for the plan for the next couple of days, McIlroy seems content with how things are progressing.

“I’m playing well and I don’t think I need to do anything differently. We have a nice relaxed vibe going on with the team so just keep that for the next couple of days. With the humidity and soft condition I think that you’d have to get to 15-18 under really to compete.”

For Shane Lowry it was a slightly different story. He hasn’t hit many fairways so far this week and while it didn’t affect his scoring much on day two he needs to correct that somehow if he is to mount a charge on the leaders over the weekend.

“It felt alright today. I didn’t drive it well but I did everything else really well. I said to Alan (caddy) coming down the last that if I get the ball in the fairway I feel like I can do pretty much whatever I want and make a lot of birdies. I just need to find a way to get into the fairway.”

And having spoken about being more aggressive after day one Lowry certainly seemed to be going after it as he returned four birdies in the first eight holes on day two.

“I suppose I was a little more aggressive,” he said.  “The greens are soft and receptive and I started off very well today. The momentum was good, especially after the delay, I came back out and had an eight or nine footer for birdie on 13 and from there I just played lovely for the rest of the day.

“I missed a short one on 17 but I’m happy with my score. I hit some good shots coming in and I was a little bit unlucky with my second shot on 18 but I’m very happy with my scoring and happy I’ve got a chance to do something very special over the weekend.”

And as to his mindset heading to the weekend rounds, Lowry was relaxed and like McIlroy is enjoying the experience and looking forward to hopefully challenging for a medal on Sunday.

“I’m going to stay patient and try and make as many birdies as I can. I think the worst thing you can do is go out and be really aggressive and make silly mistakes. First, second and third is what it’s about this week and I just want to hopefully get off to a good start tomorrow and put myself into the mix on Sunday.

“Since the Open finished my full mindset has been about getting myself into contention at the Olympics, so hopefully I can do that.”

There was a lot of talk in advance of these event about Team Ireland and Lowry was asked how things are within the team.

“It’s all about Team Ireland. We’re trying to produce at least one medal for the team. It’s not that we’re out there helping each other, we’re competing against each other but it will be nice if we’re paired together tomorrow (both finished on 7-under when play was halted) as I’d be playing with a friend and a really good golfer.

“You do feel the team element, we’re playing practice rounds together, eating together every night, wearing the same gear, travelling to the course together but when you’re out there you’re playing for yourself, your country, your family and friends and I’d love to be able to bring a medal back home. That’s the reason I came here this week, that’s my number one motivation this week, not to enjoy the Olympics. Obviously I am enjoying it, but my ultimate goal is to bring a medal home.”

Due to Covid restrictions of course there are no crowds and after a number of months of crowds on the PGA Tour and off the back of large crowds at The Open in Royal St. Georges Lowry was asked if it’s different in Toyko with no spectators and what it would mean to win a medal.

“It’s just so disappointing that there’s no crowds here. I’ve been playing in front of crowds all year on the PGA Tour and there were 32,000 a day at The Open and you come here then and with no crowds it’s quite hard. Yesterday I felt a little bit flat but as far as the magnitude of the event, it feels big but it just feels like another tournament to me. Maybe I’m just trying to play it down as if I did win a medal it would be a pretty big deal back home, it’s obviously huge, the Olympics is huge.

“It (a medal) would be more for Ireland than me, in my head. Obviously it’d be pretty cool ‘cos it would be in my house, it would be mine but growing up I never thought I’d be in the Olympics let’s be honest.”


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