By Bernie McGuire in Saudi Arabia.
Shane Lowry has the Saudi International bit between his teeth after battling bruising blustery conditions on day two of the fourth edition of the Saudi International.
There were white caps on the normally sedate-looking Red Sea as some of the world’s best tried to limit any damage on the exposed Royal Greens course.
American Harold Varner III was among those out in the morning half of the draw, and benefitting from the slightly less testing weather to add a superb six-under 66 to his opening 64 before being joined on 10-under by Spaniard Adri Arnaus with similar rounds.
Varner III, 31, is a newcomer to the now Asian Tour flagship event and enjoying testing his game on the King Abdullah Economic City layout.
“The course is unbelievable. It’s really good. It wasn’t blowing as hard this morning, so I’m just trying to hang in there and just give myself a chance,” said Varner.
“I think you’ve got to drive it really well here. It’s forgiving off the tee, but when blowing, the lines get a little bit tighter, and you’ve just got to keep hitting good shots.”
Arnaus, now a Saudi Golf ambassador, turned down contesting this week’s inaugural DP World Ras Al Khaimah Championship in the UAE, where the now 27-year-old Barcelona-born won on the host Al Hamra course in the 2018 Challenge Tour final event that year, a win that secured his DP World Tour card.
Aussie Cam ‘Mr. 34-Under’ Smith, with a pair of 66s, along with American Matthew Wolff, with scores of 65 and 67, share third place at seven-under.
Overnight leader Matteo Manassero, out in the much later second-round groups, held it together in shooting a 73 to be still well-placed at five-under-par and to be tied in ninth while defending champ Dustin Johnson, with a second day 71, is lurking in a group at four-under also including fellow Masters winner, Phil Mickelson after shooting 69.
Lowry was also out at 12.30pm local time, and again partnering fellow Irishman Graeme McDowell, with the 2019 Open Champion not disliking the similar off-shore windy conditions akin to those he triumphantly tackled at Royal Portrush.
The Clara golfer managed four birdies and just as many bogeys to remain at two-under and lying just one place outside the top-20.
“It’s good halfway cut to make and that’s three-in-a-row for me this year but then we got the tougher side of the draw out there today,” he said.
“It’s probably the windiest I’ve seen it since I first came over here,
“It means now the same for everyone over the weekend, so looking to now charge-up the leaderboard. It would be nice to go out there tomorrow and shoot five or six-under as that would put me right up there.
“The good thing about my game over these two rounds is that I am driving the ball well, and I’m in control of my game.”
McDowell, the 2020 Saudi champion, missed the high four-over-par cut-off mark by two shots with a pair of 73s. GMac’s second round included three birdies but double the number of bogeys.
While Ardglass Cormac Sharvin is headed to next week’s 2022 DP World Tour debut in the second of two events at Ras Al Khaimah after an Asian Tour debut in Saudi with scores of 74 and 75.
In fairness to the new Titleist-back golfer, it was his first event since the Covid-19 related drama unfolded late last year at the Joburg Open, and where Sharvin picked up the virus
Read the full story of Sharvin’s signing with Titleist and his new season aspirations in the Irish Golfer Magazine’s exclusive report from Saudi – CLICK ON STORY