SHANE LOWRY hit the ground running on his arrival in Tucson on Saturday as his match of a lifetime with Rory McIlroy loomed in Wednesday's first round of the Accenture World Golf Championship.
It's the first time Clara man Lowry has clapped eyes on the Jack Nicklaus course at the Ritz-Carlton resort, while world No 1 McIlroy's four visits to Dove Mountain culminated in a run to last year's final.
Hot Swede Fredrik Jacobson was doing everything in his power yesterday to make sure that mouthwatering all-Ireland showdown between Lowry and McIlroy would take place as he delivered a top-notch performance at the Northern Trust Open.
Jacobson (pictured below) needed to finish solo 28th or better to leapfrog Lowry in the world rankings and (barring any last-minute mishaps or withdrawals) place the Irishman back on a collision course with his good friend and Horizon stablemate McIlroy.
After an impressive share of seventh place at Pebble Beach last week, Jacobson (38) appeared certain to achieve that modest target in the early stages of yesterday's final round at Riviera Country Club as he challenged strongly for a top-five spot.
The only other match between Irish golfers at this event came in 2005, when Graeme McDowell beat fellow Ulsterman and then-ISM stablemate Darren Clarke 1-up in a tense first-round battle at La Costa.
Meanwhile, an unruly putter killed off any hopes of a top-10 finish and a bumper payday for David Higgins at the African Open. A disappointing two-over-par 74 left the Waterville man tied 17th on seven-under at a blustery East London golf club, nine strokes behind winner Darren Fichardt.
Higgins (40) banked €12,700, though his form on the first 54 holes suggested he was on track to enjoy a much better day at the office.
Yet the Kerryman's scoring touch deserted him yesterday. He made just one birdie, at three, and, frustratingly, racked up 37 putts.
Pretoria native Fichardt (37) had a speed wobble down the stretch, bogeying three of his final five holes. Still, a 71 was good enough to keep him two ahead of Gregory Bourdy of France (70) and fellow South African Jaco Van Zyl (73).
Four-time European Tour winner Fichardt confessed: "I started losing focus. I made a nice putt on 13 and was four shots ahead, hit an awesome three-iron into 14 and started taking it for granted out there."
Korea's Jiyai Shin (24) held off world No 1 Yani Tseng to capture the Australian Women's Open at Royal Canberra. Shin shot 72 to win by two from Tseng (66), while New Zealand's amateur sensation Lydia Ko (15) was four behind in third after a disappointing 76.