Driven Lowry chases Honda spin to top 50
FRESH from his illuminating performance on the World Championship stage, Shane Lowry today gets a taste of life in the shadowy wings of PGA Tour golf.
Lowry, who won €107,005 and universal acclaim for his Accenture Match Play victories over World No 1 Rory McIlroy and Swedish stalwart Carl Pettersson, has stumped up $400 to play today's Honda Classic qualifier in South Florida.
The Clara champion, beaten 3&2 by Graeme McDowell on Saturday morning in his second all-Ireland tussle in 36 hours, comes down from the heady heights of Dove Mountain to join 150 other professionals in a tooth-and-nail battle for just four places at the Honda.
As Matt Kuchar defied biting desert winds to inflict a 2&1 defeat on dogged defending champion Hunter Mahan in yesterday's decider at the Ritz-Carlton resort, Lowry was in balmy West Palm Beach giving today's venue, Mayacos Lakes Country Club, the once-over.
Like fellow Accenture combatant Marcus Fraser, Lowry made a transcontinental dash to qualify for the Honda because he wants to try and force his way into the world's elite top-50 before Sunday night's final cut-off for next week's Cadillac World Championship in Doral.
Alex Noren is also listed among today's entrants. However, getting to the second round in Tucson, where he lost to McDowell, lifted the Swede to No 49 in the global rankings, so he's made the field for the second WGC of 2013.
Incidentally, so has Padraig Harrington – by the skin of his teeth – at No 50 in the current rankings, just in time for today's penultimate deadline for Doral.
Harrington was narrowly beaten by McDowell in Thursday's first round and would have been displaced from the top-50 had Lowry made the last four at the Accenture.
Lowry, now 64th in the world and needing a top-10 finish at Palm Beach Gardens next Sunday to make the Cadillac Championship, today plays with Ted Purdy (39), who won his only PGA Tour title at the 2005 Byron Nelson, and Florida journeyman Alan Morrin (43).
Interestingly, the Offaly star's stablemate at Horizon Sports Management, Ross Fisher, is among a clutch of big-name players in the field, including Mark Calcavecchia and Billy Mayfair.
It's a measure of Lowry the sportsman that he set aside any disappointment after Saturday morning's defeat to McDowell and went back out that afternoon to lend morale support to the Portrush man in his quarter-final against Jason Day.
"I went back to the hotel and packed up my stuff. Then I wasn't doing anything else so I came along to support Graeme. He has been a friend of mine for years," explained Lowry.
"He played better than me in the morning and deserved to win."
After the raw excitement of Thursday's fightback against McIlroy and the excellence of his 6&5 demolition of Pettersson, the putts simply dried up for Lowry against McDowell, another of his Horizon stablemates.
"I missed a couple early doors to hand Graeme a couple of holes, which you cannot do. Then he holed a couple of bombs," he said.
The writing was on the wall for Lowry when he fell three behind the 2010 US Open champion through seven, then wallowed four back at halfway.
"Against a player of Graeme's standard, if you give him an inch, he'll take a mile," the 25-year-old added.
Lowry's so splendidly down to earth, he doesn't realise how good he really is. So the confidence he'll take from last week's performance among the world's elite in Tucson will be priceless in coming months.
Should he not qualify for Honda (and therefore Doral), Lowry will tee it up in next week's Puerto Rico Open with high hopes of making that leap into the top-50 in time to earn a first visit to April's US Masters.
While McDowell is as tough as they come, little cracks which appeared in the latter stages against Lowry – like when he hooked his tee-shot at 15 into the desert – hampered the Portrush man as he lost by one hole to Jason Day.
Having to rebound from a high-octane victory over his good friend and play a talented but ridiculously slow opponent, who drove the ball up to 30 yards further, weighed against McDowell's prospects of delivering a Saturday afternoon special.
"I'm walking out of here feeling almost triumphant," he said with tongue firmly planted in cheek.
"This is my best ever performance at Dove Mountain.
"Losing in the quarter-finals feels like a success for me here," added McDowell, beaten in the first round in three of his previous four Accenture appearances at this venue, which is unpopular with Tour pros.
Day was crushed 4&3 by Kuchar, while Ian Poulter, without that Ryder Cup X-factor, fell by the same margin to pin-perfect Mahan in his semi.
Despite a brave fightback from three down with three to play, the Englishman lost by one hole to Day in the (paltry) consolation final and finished fourth.