Shane Lowry saw his Nedbank Challenge charge bitterly stalled in taking a ‘fat lady’ 8 late on day two at Sun City in South Africa.
Lowry had raced to be five-under par for his round through 10 holes in bright but continuing windy conditions on the Gary Player designed Sun City course.
In fact, the Clara golfer was just one of five players in the 72-player event not to drop a shot over the outward nine.
Lowry dropped a first shot at the 11th but then found himself in an awkward lie in a bunker at the par five, 14th before walking off with a triple-bogey 8 and eventually signing for a one-under 71 for a one-under tally.
It left Lowry trailing five shots adrift of Frenchman Victor Dubuisson who emerged from a near three-hour lightning delay leading by three before a final hole bogey in a two-under par 70 and now lead by two at six-under.
Two players – South African Darren Fichardt (69) and England’s Lee Westwood (70) – share second place at four-under.
Westwood has superbly put himself in the frame for a first victory in over two years with the now 44-year old Englishman’s round including six birdies and four bogeys on a course where he has won twice before. (Westwood won a second of three Sunshine Tour titles on the Sun City course with his runaway eight-shot success at the 2010 Nedbank Golf Challenge while he successfully defended his title a year later.)
And Westwood will clearly be relishing thoughts of a third Nedbank title and what would also be a 24th European Tour victory and a 44th win worldwide in his 24th year in the pro ranks.
“I’ve been coming here since 1998, played it a lot and been successful around the course so the harder the conditions, the better it will be for me over the course of the week,” Westwood said.
Lowry raced up the board thanks to birdies at the second, fifth, seventh, ninth and 10th holes, having birdied all but the seventh hole a day earlier.
“It was a great start to be five-under through 10 holes but I then just got a bit unlucky on 14 with a bad lie in some grass in the bunker and from there just lost my head a little bit,” he said.
“I did birdie 16 and then made a decent bogey on 18 so I guess I am still in a good position going into the weekend.”
“Given the conditions, I definitely would have taken one-under at the start of the round but clearly not after 10 holes as I was playing great, and I just felt I was not hitting any bad shots out there.”
“Overall, it was just hard out there as it is a very tough golf course and it doesn’t help making an 8 on one hole. If I had of made 6 or a 7 then it may not have hurt as much but to take a triple-bogey was tough to deal with given how well I was playing.”
It is the second week in a row Lowry has had to swallow such a set-back given he was sharing the lead ahead of the final round of the Turkish Airlines Open. Lowry, however, found himself left in the Turkish slow lane in being one-over through 11 holes before his first and only birdie at the 12th hole before ending in a share of eighth.
The World No. 89 tried to shrug off his despair with a 16th hole birdie and narrowly missed a par save at the last.
“I bounced back well, making a good up-and-down on 15 and hit that great shot into 16 to make the birdie putt, and while I hit a bad tee shot on 18 I was fortunate enough to have a chance for par where I thought the golfing god’s might not let me drop another shot,” he said.
“It is what it is, and I am at one-under heading to the weekend, and I am on the right side of the leaderboard and hopefully the wind will die down for us tomorrow as it is unbelievably tricky and tough out there.”
“The good thing also is that nobody is running away with the lead as every hole out there can just jump up and bite you, so I don’t think double under par figures will win given the difficulty of the course and the conditions.”
“If I can get it to five-under tomorrow and then to seven or eight under come Sunday I think I may have a good chance of winning.”
Padraig Harrington heads to his final two rounds of his European Tour season following a second day 72 that included four birdies and just as many bogeys to remain at two-over par.
Paul Dunne, like Lowry, was left lamenting a triple bogey in an indifferent score of 76 to slump to four-over par.
Dunne tripled his penultimate hole, the par five eighth, while he managed three earlier birdies but also five bogeys in a four-over 36-hole total.