independent

Thursday 17 April 2014

Lowry delighted to be among big boys

RORY McILROY takes precious little satisfaction from finishing second these days.

It's little wonder, then, that Ulster's World No 1 was a tad frustrated at being pipped by Peter Hanson after a rousing head-to-head battle with his European Ryder Cup comrade over the final 54 holes at the BMW Masters.

In contrast, Shane Lowry had a richly-deserved spring in his step as he left Shanghai for Shenzen and this week's HSBC World Championship of Golf.

His confidence already soaring after his recent victory at the Portugal Masters, Lowry looked very much at home in world-class company at Lake Malaren as a splendid fifth-place finish yielded €226,237, boosting the Clara man's earnings over the past fortnight to nearly €600,000.

"Just look at the number of Ryder Cup players on the leaderboard," Lowry enthused. "It's great to be in among those boys. To be honest, I feel very comfortable up there."

It certainly appeared that way as Lowry followed up a splendid 64 on Friday with rounds of 69 and 68 at the weekend as Lake Malaren progressively became more challenging with each passing round.

Impressively, the 25-year-old absorbed a couple of numbing blows in Shanghai.

Cruising

After fighting back from a triple-bogey eight at the third hole on Thursday to post a level-par 72, he rebounded from a double-bogey six at the ninth yesterday.

"I was three under through eight, playing lovely and cruising along and then just hit a sloppy shot on nine," he said.

"I knew I was fighting for a decent finish after that double so I was delighted to make a few birdies and at least finish in fifth.

"It makes this another good week in a big tournament," added Lowry, riding high at 21st in the Race to Dubai.

"I think I handled myself nicely. My concentration levels were very good all week and so was my frame of mind. Now it's onwards and upwards."

Forecasts that fifth place in Shanghai would propel Lowry into the world's elite top 50 were incorrect but yesterday's effort should edge him just ahead of Padraig Harrington into 58th.

McIlroy was scheduled to play an 18-hole head-to-head with Tiger Woods in China early today before heading for Sofia to watch girlfriend Caroline Wozniacki play in the WTA's season-ending championship -- so he won't dwell too long on yesterday's setback in Shanghai.

Starting the final round one behind Hanson, McIlroy could only match the 67 which clinched a sixth European Tour victory for the Swede (35).

"I'm a bit disappointed," he confessed. "I thought I played well but missed four or five short putts in a row on the front nine."

McIlroy made bogey at five and six. Four behind with four to play, he fought back gamely with an eagle three at 15 and a birdie at 16 but later sighed: "It was too little, too late."

Hanson, who'd got up and down nicely from sand for a birdie of his own at 15, landed himself in a tight corner in a greenside bunker at the treacherous par-three 17th. He was equal to the challenge, however, playing a decent shot out of a difficult stance to 14 feet before holing the putt for par.

Still there was more drama to come. Two ahead playing the last, Hanson hit his approach into an embedded lie in deep rough above a bunker close to the final green.

After failing to convince rules officials his ball had been plugged, Hanson then hit a fine chip to 12 feet and took the two putts he needed to clinch his most prestigious victory.

Trailing McIlroy by €812,572 in the Race to Dubai as he heads for the HSBC, Hanson completed another significant piece of business at Lake Malaren, patching up his differences with Jose Maria Olazabal.

Furious and frustrated to learn at the last minute that he'd not play on the Saturday at the Ryder Cup, Hanson recently said the European skipper was no longer on his Christmas card list. After lengthy talks during the week with his Medinah team-mates and Olazabal, Hanson insisted yesterday that his remark had been "a joke which didn't really turn out the way I wanted."

Graeme McDowell closed with a 69 and Michael Hoey shot 70 for a share of 11th place in Shanghai, worth €92,416.

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