SHANE LOWRY has been performing magic on the course for several years but the ingenious shots he conjured up to beat Rory McIlroy will resonate in America long after the 2013 Accenture Match Play Championship is forgotten.
Put simply, a global star was born! Freed from the pressure of playing the world No 1 and his good friend, Lowry (25) followed up with a 6&5 trouncing of Carl Pettersson (37), a Swede who has accepted US citizenship .
Needing to win two more matches today to reach the semi-finals and break into the world’s elite top 50, Lowry this morning faces another all-Ireland acid test against Graeme McDowell .
After edging Padraig Harrington in a thundering war of attrition on Thursday, Portrush man McDowell defeated Alex Noren on the 20th hole of an enthralling nip-and-tuck battle .
McDowell forced the match into extra-time with a gutsy birdie, his sixth of the day, on 18. The polished Swede’s resistance finally broke after he hooked his second shot deep into the desert on the par-five second .
“I’m really looking forward to playing Graeme. It should be great craic,” said Lowry cheerily .
The Offaly man looked a class apart as he played the front nine at the Ritz-Carlton Club in a flawless three-under par .
Four-up on Pettersson at that point, he closed out the match with ease and was so much in his element, one wonders even if his teak-tough Horizon stablemate and former US Open winner McDowell can stop him .
The title looks wide open, with all but Bubba Watson of the top eight seeds out of the event – 2011 champion Luke Donald was demolished 7&6 by Scott Piercy in yesterday’s biggest shock .
“I wish every week was match play. I just love the headto- head challenge,” beamed Lowry .
The fun-loving Clara man made such a seismic impact during Thursday’s compelling battle with McIlroy, the relatively reserved galleries at the Ritz- Carlton Club burst into raucous renditions of the European Ryder Cup anthem ‘Ole, Ole, Ole’ .
One suspects he also chipped and putted his way into the heart of the US TV audience .
America loves an entertainer and, like McIlroy, Lowry is blessed with a licence to thrill .
Lowry seized the day against McIlroy during a glorious threehole stretch which began with a chip-in from the fringe at 11 for birdie and a fighting half .
SPECTACULARLY Then he holed out even more spectacularly from deep rough over the back of the green at the par-three 12th. Performed right in front of a packed grandstand, this inspired shot brought spectators roaring to their feet. Even McIlroy smiled at the sheer audacity of it .
Ahead for the first time, Lowry trumped it with a barnstorming eagle three at 13 to ease two clear and leave his vaunted opponent wriggling on a pin. Thursday’s performance and yesterday’s cakewalk against Pettersson confirm the potential Lowry showed during his stunning victory as an amateur at the 2009 Irish Open and his first win as a pro in October’s Portugal Masters .
Behind his image as an easygoing country lad, Lowry has long concealed a powerful work ethic and a keen competitive edge .
A snapshot from his boyhood reveals how he acquired the touch of an artist around the greens: “I always used play golf on my own, bring a bag of balls and stand around the greens in a quiet corner of Esker Hills, chipping away for hours .
“That’s how I lived my whole youth, until I was 17 or 18 .
While my good pals were going out to discos, I stayed at home on Saturday night so I could get up early on Sunday morning to go and play golf. That’s all I ever wanted to do.” As America discovered this week, the net result is an entertainer capable of making the hairs stand up on the back of any golf enthusiast’s neck .