Wednesday 28 September 2016

Lowry gunning for McIlroy as Race to Dubai hits fever pitch

Brian Keogh

Published 02/11/2015 | 02:30

France’s Victor Dubuisson celebrates with the trophy after his victory in the Turkish Airlines Open at The Montgomerie Maxx Royal GC
France’s Victor Dubuisson celebrates with the trophy after his victory in the Turkish Airlines Open at The Montgomerie Maxx Royal GC

Shane Lowry rediscovered his fade and his confidence before jetting off to China believing he can challenge Rory McIlroy for the Race to Dubai title.

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As a resurgent and emotional Victor Dubuisson produced some short game magic to remain in contention and then birdied three of his last four holes to win the Turkish Airlines Open by a stroke, Lowry finished eighth on 15 under par despite playing well below his best for most of the week.

The Clara star (28) finished just one stroke behind struggling Race to Dubai leader McIlroy (71).

The Ulsterman looked far from his imperious best with just two events of his European Tour season remaining as he claimed a share of sixth place.

Crown

Lowry has three starts to go and, after claiming 195,470 points (and pocketing €156,449) to move up from fifth to third in the Race to Dubai, he's looking forward to a big fortnight in China and the chance to challenge McIlroy for the European crown in the Dubai finale.

"I was going out today just to hit the ball well and find something for next week," said Lowry, who made an eagle and four birdies after moving the ball forward in his stance and rediscovering his fade.

"I am looking forward to getting to China now. Bogey-free 66 on any Sunday, it is the right day to do it."

Lowry birdied the first, chipped in for eagle at the fourth and rolled in a six-footer at the short eighth to charge up the leaderboard at the Montgomerie Maxx Royal.

Even though he missed a five-footer for birdie at the ninth, the towering 195-yard fade with a five-iron that preceded it boosted his confidence after three erratic days.

"I had no control with my ball, it was going weird distances with my irons," Lowry said. "Any time there was a left flag I was fine but couldn't get to right flags and I was losing confidence more and more as the week went on."

Armed with his fade, Lowry went out in 31 and while he 'only' came home in two-under 35, he missed his only green in regulation at the 12th but saved par with a trademark pitch and putt.

In contrast to Lowry, McIlroy's long game misfired yesterday and two late birdies covered up a poor round.

Having started the day just a stroke behind Dubuisson and Van Zyl, he made birdies at the third and fourth but lost his swing and did well to card a one-under 71 for a share of sixth on 16 under. "I'll be going away from this tournament very disappointed with how I played today," said McIlroy who started hitting iron shots left and failed to get up and down for pars at the eighth, ninth and 12th.

"But I'm still playing two more events this year and I feel like my game is good enough to give myself two opportunities to win again."

Dubuisson blamed an ill-fated sojourn to the US Tour as well as poor putting for his fall of more than 50 places to 69th in the world this year.

But after he saved a miraculous par from the trees at the 10th, he chipped in for eagle at the 11th to get back in the hunt.

The Frenchman then had three birdies in the last four holes - including the last two - for a six-under-par 66, to steal the title from Van Zyl, who could only par the last for a 67.

"My putting was really bad this year and my short game, as well," said Dubuisson, who returns to the world's top 50 after a season curtailed for personal reasons.

"But it's because I didn't really have time to practise a lot. When you start to putt really badly, then you lose your confidence."

Graeme McDowell's lack of confidence with the driver fed into his putting this year and after closing with a 33-putt 75 for a share of 37th on five under, he turns his attention to the 2016 season on the PGA Tour where he will be hoping to recapture some magic.

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