SHANE LOWRY'S hopes of a wild-west style shootout with world No 1 Rory McIlroy or Tiger Woods in Tucson are very much alive.
The prospects of a mouth-watering, All-Ireland battle between Lowry and his former Irish amateur team-mate McIlroy at the Accenture Match Play World Championship hinge on the performances of a dozen players who tee it up today in the Joburg Open and the AT&T National at Pebble Beach.
Just 12 of the 36 men behind No 64 Lowry in the world's top-100 play this week ... and few, if any, have played well enough recently to suggest they can deliver against world-class opposition in California or South Africa and displace the Irishman from the Accenture line-up before Monday's cut-off.
No doubt, Lowry faces an anxious time at home on Sunday monitoring tournament scoreboards ... but with Phil Mickelson unlikely to play in Tucson, making room for one more in the 64-man field, the Irishman would be unlucky not to make it.
"We'll just have to wait an see," said Lowry, currently seeded to take on McIlroy for the first time in match play next Wednesday week in Tucson, though a first round clash with second seed Tiger Woods is also possible.
It was like the Grand Central Station of sport as Lowry ambled into the lobby at Carton House yesterday. Ireland's Six Nations heroes were emerging from lunch, while members of the Polish soccer team were gathered ahead of last night's match at Lansdowne Road.
Lowry (25) first bumped into Gordon D'Arcy as he crossed the threshold.
Boniek's keen. He lasted 11 holes on the O'Meara Course – before bowing to hypothermia.
As Carton's official representative on Tour and proud owner of one of the 120 houses on the estate, Lowry is host professional for the June 27-30 Irish Open on the Montgomerie Course.
Few seem better equipped for the role. After the Irish Open media briefing, Lowry linked up with Rob Kearney and Ronan O'Gara for a photo shoot. In three a half years on the professional fairways, Lowry has matured into an assured, easy-going man of the world.
Lowry's humour shone as he recalled a previous encounter with members of the Irish rugby squad at Carton, when Sean O'Brien snapped a driver.
"I do this trick, where I flip the ball up and hit it like a hurl," Lowry explained. "Being from Carlow, Sean O'Brien's not much good at that, so he broke Mike Kearney's driver!"
The son of All-Ireland football medal-winner Brendan, Lowry is GAA and country to the core. He's a bon viveur in a sport for the obsessed ... a throwback to more free-spirited times.
Asked if he's more Bubba Watson than Padraig Harrington, Lowry retorted: "I wouldn't say I'm like Bubba, but I'm not like Padraig. Obviously, he works a lot on technique ... I just go out, hit the ball, find it, then hit it again.
"I'm not very technically minded," he went on. "The work I do with Neil Manchip (his long-standing coach) is quite simple. Hopefully, I can stay with Neil for the rest of my career and keep things going the way they are now. I believe the golf I played towards the end of last year is good enough to compete in any golf tournament in the world."
Good enough to secure his first win as a pro in last October's Portugal Masters and bring Lowry to the cusp of the world's elite top-50. He was 52nd by year's end, even after shingles confined Lowry to hospital in Dubai when he should have been playing the points-rich DP World Championship.
The hunger which burns within was revealed when Lowy confessed that the pressure to cross that bridge into the big-time contributed to a couple of heart-breaking missed cuts in Abu Dhabi and Dubai.
"I'm not going to lie to you, I think I let it get to me," he confessed. "It's difficult to find that happy medium between trying too hard and not doing enough. It's all part of the learning process."
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