Sunday 4 December 2016

'Happy' Shane Lowry well in the hunt as Rory McIlroy scrapes into US Open weekend

Phil Casey

Published 20/06/2015 | 07:06

Rory McIlroy of Northern Ireland walks off the 18th green during the second round of the 115th U.S. Open Championship at Chambers Bay on June 19, 2015 in University Place, Washington. (Photo by Andrew Redington/Getty Images)
Rory McIlroy of Northern Ireland walks off the 18th green during the second round of the 115th U.S. Open Championship at Chambers Bay on June 19, 2015 in University Place, Washington. (Photo by Andrew Redington/Getty Images)
Shane Lowry of Ireland waits on the sixth tee during the first round of the 115th U.S. Open Championship at Chambers Bay on June 18, 2015 in University Place, Washington. (Photo by Andrew Redington/Getty Images)
Rory McIlroy of Northern Ireland walks off the 18th green during the second round of the 115th U.S. Open Championship at Chambers Bay on June 19, 2015 in University Place, Washington. (Photo by Andrew Redington/Getty Images)
Rory McIlroy of Northern Ireland walks on the 18th green during the second round of the 115th U.S. Open Championship at Chambers Bay on June 19, 2015 in University Place, Washington. (Photo by Andrew Redington/Getty Images)
Rory McIlroy of Northern Ireland walks to the 17th green during the second round of the 115th U.S. Open Championship at Chambers Bay on June 19, 2015 in University Place, Washington. (Photo by David Cannon/Getty Images)

Ireland's Shane Lowry was relishing being in contention for a maiden major title after making the cut in the US Open for the first time on Friday.

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Lowry added a second round of 70 to his opening 69 at Chambers Bay to reach halfway at one under par, four shots off the lead held by Masters champion Jordan Spieth and US Ryder Cup team mate Patrick Reed.

"I was going along nicely and missed a great chance on 12," Lowry said after a round containing three birdies, one bogey and a double bogey. "I thought if I hit a great putt there to get to three under for the tournament I would have been cruising.

"Then I felt I got unlucky on 14 and just pulled my second shot. Got an awful lie in the bunker and ended up making double from there.

"I hit a great shot into 15, great shot into 16 (without making birdie) and made a great putt for par for 17 from 10 feet. That was massive in regards to the whole round and then I went on to birdie the last, which was nice.

"It was one of those days that I'm quite happy with. It could have been a little bit better, but I'm in a great position for the weekend.

"The good thing for me is I'm feeling a bit more comfortable on the greens. Not 100 per cent, but I'm liking what I'm doing and liking the way I'm hitting my putts."

Lowry missed the cut at Congressional in 2011 and Pinehurst last year, as well as on his Masters debut in April - but finished ninth in the Open at Hoylake last summer.

"It's a bit early to be talking about winning," added the 28-year-old, who won the Irish Open in 2009 while still an amateur.

"There's lots of golf to be played yet, so I need to just keep doing my own thing. I'm driving the ball well. My iron play is good. My putting is getting to where I want it. You never know what can happen on Sunday.

"I felt quite in control of myself all day yesterday and today. It feels good to be here and feeling like the way I felt the last couple of days.

"I was in control of myself, my emotions and everything. I just need to keep that intact the next few days."

World number one Rory McIlroy had threatened to get into contention when he eagled the 12th and birdied the 15th, only to four-putt the 17th and drop another shot on the last.

A second consecutive 72 left McIlroy four over par but at least meant the 26-year-old avoided a third straight missed cut, but defending champion Martin Kaymer missed out by a single shot after a 74 which featured a triple-bogey seven on the 10th.

Graeme McDowell (+8) and Darren Clarke (+17) failed to make the cut.

Masters champion Jordan Spieth kept his bid to make history firmly on track as Tiger Woods missed just his fifth cut in 68 majors as a professional on Friday.

Spieth is looking to become only the sixth man, after Craig Wood, Ben Hogan, Arnold Palmer, Jack Nicklaus and Woods, to win the Masters and US Open in the same year.

The world number two can also become the first player since Gene Sarazen in 1922 to win multiple majors aged 21 or younger at Chambers Bay and set a clubhouse target of five under par that only Ryder Cup partner Patrick Reed was able to match.

Reed and Dustin Johnson both reached seven under par before dropping shots in the tougher afternoon conditions, with Johnson carding three bogeys in his last five holes to finish four under par alongside South African Branden Grace.

Starting on the back nine, Spieth birdied the 10th, 14th, 15th and 17th - he also three-putted the driveable 12th for par after missing from two feet - before running up a double-bogey six on the par-four 18th, which played as a par five in the first round and par four in the second.

"I think 18 as a par four doesn't make much sense," Spieth said. "You can hit it down the left centre of the fairway and still end up in the right bunker in trouble.

"There's a group of about 10, 12 guys that can fly it 310 yards that have an entirely different hole to play there. For anybody else you have to hit it in a five or six-yard area.

"So all in all I thought it was a dumb hole today, but I think we're going to play it from there again, so I've got to get over that."

Spieth led from start to finish when winning the Masters in April, setting new 36 and 54-hole scoring records and becoming the first player ever to reach 19 under par at Augusta.

"I'll probably draw a significant amount off it (although) it's playing different and I'm in a very different position," he added. "I'm not going to have a four, five-shot lead.

"I know that it's going to get tougher and tougher now that Saturday and Sunday hits. So I'll draw some on Augusta, but at the same time my patience level has to be even that much higher. I'm not quite putting myself in the same positions off the tee, so I've got to be a little more methodical.

"At Augusta I was kind of finding fairways, hitting it on the green and I was making everything. That would be nice here if I could do that, but it's a harder golf course than the Masters played this year."

As rookies, Spieth and Reed combined to win two-and-a-half points from three matches in the Ryder Cup at Gleneagles and also contested a play-off for the Valspar Championship earlier this year, won by Spieth.

"It's going to be fun," Reed said. "Any time I play with Jordan I enjoy it. The main thing for me is to stay focused and focus on what I need to do to play some good golf and plot my way around this course, especially if it gets firmer and faster and knowing where to leave the ball.

"I actually felt it was a pretty disappointing round to have six bogeys and I didn't get up and down once. I hit the ball in the middle of the green on 18, have no chance to putt a normal putt and stop near the hole and have to play Mickey Mouse golf to try to make par.

"Unfortunately it's a bad way to end the day but we're in a good position and we hopefully can have a good weekend and have a chance to win."

At the other end of the leaderboard, Woods added a second round of 76 to his opening 80 - his worst score ever in the US Open and third in the 80s in six events - to finish 16 over par and in a tie for 150th.

"I hit a little bit better today," said the former world number one, who won the last of his 14 major titles in the 2008 US Open. "But again I made nothing today. I didn't make any putts the first two days.

"On a golf course like this you get exposed and you have to be precise and dialled in. And obviously I didn't have that. Obviously I need to get a little better for the British Open and I'll keep working at it."

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