Shane Lowry’s invitation to next fortnight’s Masters hinges on defeating reigning Augusta National champion, Patrick Reed.
Lowry and Reed will square-off later today in the second of three round-robin encounters on the Austin Country Club course in the Texas capital and they tee-up having each lost their opening match with Lowry never in front against the 2017 Masters champion, Sergio Garcia and Reed, the 16th seed, a shock loser and also never in front of compatriot and 51st seed, Andrew Putnam.
Lowry arrived in Austin lying at World No. 48 and desperate to remain inside the top-50 at the conclusion of this week’s tournament if he’s to receive an invitation to contest this year’s Masters.
The Offaly golfer burst back into the top-50 from 74th in the world to 41st in capturing the Abu Dhabi HSBC Championship but unfortunately, it has a been a steady slide down the rankings table since then to a situation now where a win over Reed and a victory on Friday over Putnam should ensure the Masters invitation.
A loss to Reed however will more than likely see Lowry drop outside the top-50.
Garcia was never behind in his match with Lowry winning the first with a birdie and then seeing Lowry concede the par-5 after a wild drive left off the tee to be 2-down to the Spaniard.
Garcia went 3up in winning the eighth hole with a par to Lowry’s bogey after another wayward drive left while Lowry missed another fairway and this time right at the 10th to be now 5-down before mounting a mini-charge winning the 12th hole thanks to a two-putt birdie to be now 4-down.
He then got back to 3-down in holing a 12-foot for a second birdie in succession at the par-4 13th.
The match was all over on the par-5 16th green though when Lowry missed his putt for par and then conceded Garcia’s four-footer for birdie.
“I played well. I think I made three or four birdies on the front and no bogeys and then on the back I kept giving myself good birdie opportunities,” said Garcia.
“Unfortunately, I didn’t really make any until here on 16, and Shane made a couple to kind of get back on it. Made it a little bit more interesting. “But I felt like I played quite well.
“It is important in this format, it’s important to win the first one. If you don’t win the first one, then you feel like you’re behind the 8 ball the whole rest of the week.
“So, it was important to do that and now we’ve got to go out there tomorrow and hopefully get another win and that kind of makes things a little clearer for Friday.
“Shane put a good fight starting on 11. We both had good birdie chances there. I had a great chance to go 6-up. And then I missed a couple good opportunities and he made a couple nice birdies.
“But I just stayed patient. I knew I was playing well. So, I just had to keep giving myself chances and put pressure on him and see how he would do.”