Shane Lowry labelled it a career ‘milestone’ in ending a miserable run of outs to be assured of contesting all four rounds for a first time in six showings at the Arnold Palmer Invitational in Orlando.
Lowry battled the bright but windy conditions grabbing an eagle and two birdies in a round of a two-under 70 to move well inside the top-25 at two-under in the up-graded $US20m event at the Bay Hill club.
The Offaly golfer was tied with 2018 champ Rory McIlroy, who bounced back from his opening 72 in shooting a 69 on a very tough Bay Hill course as the afternoon half of the draw were taking to the course.
American Kirk Kitayama added a 68 to lead in the clubhouse, moving three shots clear at nine-under.
There was not so good news for World No. 1 Jon Rahm who tumbled off his two-shot overnight leading perch in posting a horror 76, to trail six shots back of Kitayama. Included in Rahm’s round was a nightmare finish in going bogey, double-bogey, birdie, bogey and bogey.
Lowry was naturally all smiles after his round and with the assurance of four rounds since missing the first of five cuts in Arnie’s event since a first on debut in 2015.
“It was a milestone for me today”, he said smiling. “I had a stressful few last holes but the key today was I played the par-5s well, and that was the key to my round.
“So, I played good but then I played really good yesterday in those tough conditions though a bit disappointing to bogey two of my last three holes, as that was really, really disappointing.
“The good thing is I feel like the last few weeks my game has been good and it’s kind of a nice time of the year for your game to be good.”
In fact, Lowry played the four par-5s in three-under, chipping-in from 14-feet from the back of the green at the fourth, and this after putting a ball in the water at the par-3 third hole, and then holing birdie putts at the par-5 sixth and the par-5 16th.
“I started off poorly putting my tee shot at three into the water, so I was one-over early and sort of thinking that I have played here six times and never having made the cut around here ”, he said smiling.
“It was hard out there day, and they have obviously softened the course a little bit in bringing a few tees forward but it was just stressful out there as it’s a tough golf course in nice condition.
“I’m actually looking forward to sitting back and watching the afternoon golf, to be honest (smiling)”.
McIlroy capped his round with four birdies, two on each nine and with only hiccup being a ninth hole bogey.
Joining the duo for the weekend is Padraig Harrington who, like Lowry and McIlroy, was out in the less windier morning half of the draw to post five birdies in a two-under 70 to be just one back of his fellow Irish, and inside the top-40 at one-under.
“Every person like myself who was out early this morning, went out there as though we were a couple of inches taller as the conditions were getting tougher when we were finishing”, said Harrington.
“We were just so happy knowing we got the right side of the draw, so those of us out early will all have a smile on their faces no matter how tough it was starting to get, as the guys out this afternoon were getting it worse.”
Seamus Power, the fourth Irishman in the field, was out in the afternoon half of the draw, and got his round off to flyer with a hat-trick of birdies from his third hole.
Power had signed for an opening 72 and was just a shot outside the top-10 heading to the sixth.
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