By Bernie McGuire in Abu Dhabi.
Ice-cool Shane Lowry emerged from the ice plants guarding the side of the last hole and superbly walked off with a par save to be just one back of the lead on 10-under heading to the final round of the Abu Dhabi HSBC Championship.
Lowry, winner of the Rolex Series event in 2019, signed for a 67 to be trailing Scotland’s Scott Jamieson, who rolled-in a six-foot birdie on 18 in a score of 68 to get to 11-under, with Belgium’s Thomas Pieters, who parred 18 also in a 67, alongside Lowry at minus-10.
Jamieson is three shots clear of Viktor Hovland, who bogeyed the last in a score of 70 and India’s Shubhankar Sharma, signing for a 67 with both at eight-under.
The day dawned with some 39-players still to complete their second rounds following the brutal near 60 km winds from a day earlier, with the players out in three-balls and fortunately with conditions appreciably calmer.
Lowry produced a super bogey-free display that included five birdies, including back-to-back birdies at 15 and 16 but it was his par-save on 18 that clearly delighted a huge continent of Irish supporters walking with the 2019 Open Champions.
Lowry’s drive off the last only just cleared the water landing softly on ice plants lining the slopes that lead down into the coastal waterway that runs the entire length of the Kyle Phillips designed course. However, there was a little confusion between Lowry and caddy Bo Martin as to what HSBC advertising sign they were aiming at off the last.
“Myself and Bo, we were aiming at the wrong HSBC sign – the sign he was saying was located 30 yards right of the one I was looking at,” said Lowry smiling.
“Yeah, new course, I thought I hit a perfect tee shot. I couldn’t believe it came down where it did. It was a bad mistake to make because we shouldn’t be doing it in that situation. I got very lucky and fortunate in the ice plant and made a good 2-putt afterwards. Could have been a different story. I’m not sure I’d be standing here. I might be sitting in the locker room sulking right now.
“I’m happy with the way I’ve played overall. I’m really happy with the way the week is going and I’m looking forward to tomorrow.”
Lowry won the event three-years ago leading start-to-finish and tees-up on day four also looking for a first taste of victory since his stunning 148th Open triumph at Royal Portrush.
“I’m looking forward to tomorrow,” he said. “Whoever I’m paired with tomorrow it will be a good day but there’s one thing in my mind, to be standing here tomorrow with the trophy again.
“It’s great for the first tournament of the year to be in contention. There’s been plenty of times my first tournament of the year I’ve missed cuts and stuff like that and it gets you off to really bad starts. It’s nice to be where I am, and like I said, I’m really looking forward to tomorrow.”
Padraig Harrington is also buoyed heading into the last day of his first event of a 27th season in the pro ranks staring at a hopeful top-10 result after his 68 moved him into a share of 17th spot at four-under-par
If so, it would be the 50-year-old’s best finish since late last year when he shared eighth place in the AVIV Dubai Championship.
And Harrington has good top-10 form also earlier in 2021 with back-to-back results of a T6th in the Dubai Desert Classic and then his brilliant share of fourth at the PGA Championship.
Rory McIlroy uncharacteristically ended his third day’s play just after Lowry had putted out except that McIlroy was on the close-by ninth hole in recording and also matching Lowry’s 67 to be just inside the top-30 on two-under.
And for a second day running, the four-time Abu Dhabi runner-up brilliantly rolled in a 33-footer for an eagle ‘3’ on the par-5 seventh hole that he was playing on day three as his 16th.
- Full Abu Dhabi scoring HERE