By Fatiha Betscher in Abu Dhabi.
Shane Lowry had a smile on his face but it was nothing to do with the brutal conditions on day two of the Abu Dhabi HSBC Championship on a very windswept Yas Links course.
Lowry dug deep, exhibiting all the traits that earned him victory in the 148th Open Championship, in posting a level par 72 to remain well in contention at five-under-par.
England’s Ian Poulter, also with a 72, and a hatless Danish sensation Viktor Hovland signing for a two-over 74, shared the early clubhouse lead at six-under-par.
Reigning Open Champion Collin Morikawa was one of many to struggle with scores of 73 and 74 and in fear of missing the weekend cut. The double major winner arrived in the UAE capital staring for a second time at the chance of moving to World No.1 though that now looks unlikely as we also saw last month following his shock final round in the Bahamas.
Lowry is just a shot back on a day so windy, it would blow a dog off its chain or as SKY Sports Golf on-course commentator Wayne Riley remarked: ‘The conditions are about as useful as an ashtray on a motorbike”.
On such days, par is a good score, with Lowry’s round a mix of three birdies and just as many bogeys with the World No. 48 capping his day in birdieing the par-5 seventh for a second day running.
“It was difficult out there but I played okay,” he said.
“I feel like I didn’t really have my A Game in the wind today that I normally would. I hit some loose shots that generally would be better but it was just so tough out there, so tough, every part of it. Putting was probably the hardest thing, but yeah, I’m absolutely thrilled with 72 to be honest.
“It’s my first tournament of the year, I was happy with 5-under yesterday and I’m happy with level par today and hopefully it doesn’t get up too much and
the boys stay out there this morning and I’ll be there going into the weekend.”
It’s been mentioned often since Lowry’s Royal Portrush success, and what was also witnessed at Baltray in 2009, that he loves playing in the wind but that’s not totally true.
“I don’t love it. I’d prefer if it was calm but I know how to play in those conditions. Yeah, I knew going out this morning that it would be up. I knew that go out and just play my game and do my thing. Because it’s in the wind, I think about it a lot less and I just hit the shots and I just hit the shots I see.
“That’s what makes me so good in the wind I think. I just kind of play with a lot of feel. Yeah, it worked. I was decent today and hopefully, it’s not going to be as windy this weekend, but it will still be blustery. Yeah, we’ll see.”
And if there is a key to playing in the wind?
“You just need to make sure you’re probably taking a little bit off your swing speed,” he said.
“I nudged the ball back a little bit in my stance. I tee it up the same height with my driver but I just really feel like I’m trying to trap it and trying to hit down on it with less speed because if you hit down on it with too much speed, it will just spin up.
“You try to hit a few nice drives, low draws there today and it was pretty good. I just aimed it right and back in my stance a little bit and just kind of sort of 85 percent swing and swing through.”
Fellow Irishman Padraig Harrington also had a smile on his face and was one of a few to produce an under-par score with his 71, that included four birdies, a bogey, and a double, to be at level par inside the projected two-over par cut mark.
Included in Harrington’s round was a first-ever double-hit chip shot at the par-4 12th hole, leading to his double-bogey.
“I have never, ever done that before in my career and the ball only went a couple of feet, as I clipped it on the way through,” he said.
“But thankfully for the new rules on the green as there was a lot of movement of the ball out there today, and under the old rules you have to have replaced the ball.”
Jonathan Caldwell had three holes of his first round to play when poor light halted play. The Clandeboye player ended the round with a 77 but slumped to miss the cut with a second-round 78 for a disappointing 11-over total.
- Full scoring HERE