Matching 68s see Lowry move up and Harrington survive

Mark McGowan

Padraig Harrington (Photo by Charlie Crowhurst/R&A via Getty Images)

Mark McGowan

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Shane Lowry and Padraig Harrington both shot second-round 68s at the Honda Classic on PGA National’s Champion Course, as Lowry zeroes in on the top 10 and Harrington makes it safely through to the weekend.

Lowry’s two-under was his second in succession, leaving the Offaly man at -4 through 36 holes. The round began with an early bogey at the second, but it was the last bogey he’d card and he’d birdie the third, eighth and seventeenth holes to close out a satisfactory day.

Whereas in Thursday’s opening round it had been Lowry’s putter that had let him down after being fabulous tee-to-green, on Friday it was the opposite. Uncharacteristically loose with his irons, he’d give himself very few good looks at birdie, cleaned up several long, two-putt pars, and holed a 29-footer on the eighth and a monster from nearly 58 feet for birdie on the 17th.

“I feel like I need to play the courses that I like and the tournaments that Iike,” said Lowry, who’s in the third week of a five tournament stretch. “Yes, we have to pay a certain amount of tournaments this year but there are a couple that I do like that want to play in and this is one of them,”

“The fact that I am at home and get to stay in my own bed makes it a little bit easier. It’s one of the most difficult courses we play all year, so it’s quite stressful, but I am having a good week so far.”

The birdie at the 17th came despite Webb Simpson’s marker being directly in his line, but putting from such long range, he didn’t request it to be moved. Regardless, it went straight over the marker and found the hole anyway.

“Yeah, you are just happy to see your tee shot on land and on the green and it tried to just two-putt that from there,” said the world number 20, adding “I thought it was in the whole way, then I thought Webb’s marker was going to knock it out but I am happy that it went in.”

After struggling with his approach play and short game in Thursday’s opening round, a tasty chip helped Harrington save par at the 10th (his first) and two good iron shots on 11 and 12 led to back-to-back birdies to move the Golf Hall of Fame nominee back to level par for the tournament.

Disappointingly, after such a good start, he couldn’t build on the momentum and failed to really take advantage of the prime scoring conditions, adding just two more birdies but with two bogeys thrown in as well.

US Ryder Cup captain Zach Johnson and European counterpart Luke Donald completed the Harrington grouping, and Johnson, who bettered Harrington’s 68 by one to move to -5 through two rounds, felt that the Dubliner had been a little unfortunate but had been reasonably confident that he’d make the cut.

“Yeah, awesome, phenomenal pairing,” he said when asked about the group dynamic. “I’d take it every week. Two good buddies, two awesome champions. Padraig, I feel like he played better than what he shot the last two days. I think he’ll probably hang in there, at least my hope is that he gets in.”

Harrington’s round saw him move inside the provisional cut-line and as the afternoon wore on – despite relatively little wind for West Palm Beach – scoring proved difficult and Harrington is safely though as the cutline looks set to fall at +1, though the second round is yet to be fully completed.

Calm conditions for the morning starters meant that there were plenty of opportunities to make a move and nobody did it better than Chris Kirk who shot an eight-under 62, missing an eight-footer on his 17th and a 25-footer on the last which would’ve seen him tie the course record had it dropped.

This saw him take the clubhouse lead at -9, though he’d be overtaken by fellow American Justin Suh who backed up his opening 66 with a second-round 64 to reach the 36-hole mark at -10.

Shane Lowry begins his second round from the -2 mark, knowing that he’ll need to follow up a solid opening round with something similar if he’s likely to contend over the weekend, though the difficulty of the Jack Nicklaus re-modelled course and the propensity for the wind to blow make wild leaderboard swings always a distinct possibility.

Speaking after his near-record equalling round, Chris Kirk admitted that the conditions were ripe for an aggressive approach. “Yeah, it was definitely the conditions that lent itself to being able to be a little bit more aggressive, being able to dial in kind of carry distances and stuff like that with irons and wedges better.

“Usually we’re playing for 15, 20 plus yards of hurt going into the wind shots, and 15, 20 yards of help on downwind shots. So it’s really difficult to get those just right when it’s really windy.

“But today there was hardly a breath most of the round, and so it became a little bit more target practice.”

Asked if he was aware that the putt on the last was to equal the course record, Kirk confessed that he had other things on his mind. “No, I just wanted to birdie the last three to shoot 59,” he said. “Yeah, it was disappointing not to birdie 18. I hit such a great wedge shot that looked like it went right over the edge of the hole. Haven’t really had any spin back like that this week. I guess it’s just really into the grain right there on 18.”


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