independent

Friday 25 April 2014

Red-hot Lowry a man on a mission

Even a couple of bogeys on the final two holes of his first-round 66 at the HSBC Champions couldn't dent the Clara man's good humour.

SMILING Shane Lowry hopes he can freewheel to only the second victory by an Irish player on golf's World Championship stage this weekend at Mission Hills.

Even a couple of bogeys on the final two holes of his first-round 66 at the HSBC Champions couldn't dent the Clara man's good humour.

Combine Lowry's ability to 'go with the flow' on the golf course with his recent hot form on Tour and you get a potent mix, as he proved in victory at the Portugal Masters, followed by a fighting fifth in Shanghai last Sunday.

So it was no surprise to see him tied third on six-under with US masters Phil Mickelson and Bubba Watson plus European Ryder Cup star Peter Hanson entering today's second round on the Olazabal Course.

South Africa's 2010 British Open winner Louis Oosthuizen and Adam Scott, who let the Claret Jug slip out of his fingers at Lytham in the summer, set the pace with opening 65s. The Aussie took best advantage of the five par-fives with four birdies and an eagle at nine, his final hole.

Yet Lowry left the entire field gasping with eight birdies in his faultless first 16 holes before failing to get up-and-down from a greenside bunker at 17 and dropping another shot out of a fairway trap at the difficult 18th.

"I'm happy to be six-under," he shrugged. "Obviously, it was disappointing to bogey those last two, but I'm still in a good position and am very satisfied with the way I played.

"It was as if I had the ball on a string all day. It seemed to come very easy for me," added Lowry, who won't dwell too long on that disappointing finish. The 25-year-old, who won the 2009 Irish Open as an amateur, is a throwback to more carefree days in golf.

"I'm looking forward to the next few days," Lowry smiled, capably illustrating his philosophy as he added: "Everything feels good and I just want to keep going and not think about it too much. I'll just keep going until it stops."

The decision of Rory McIlroy and Tiger Woods to skip Shenzen created a furore, with senior HSBC executive Giles Morgan warning that the failure of leading players to support big events is discouraging for sponsors.

"Without the sponsors, there isn't professional golf. I speak on behalf of the industry," said Morgan, who this week also castigated high-profile golfers for expecting tournaments to pay appearance fees on top of big purses.

ARRANGEMENTS

Yet when Tiger Woods played the HSBC Abu Dhabi Championship for the first time earlier this year, Morgan told leading US golf writer Bob Harig: "The commercial arrangements we have with some players is long-seated."

He continued: "Golf is a product, particularly in new markets. And you have to ensure that the players are able to showcase what the sport is to the broader public. We are trying to take this sport to a new audience, which means that commercial arrangements are much more likely."

Similar 'commercial arrangements' obviously led Woods and McIlroy a fortnight ago to publicly commit to playing the 2013 HSBC Abu Dhabi Championship, giving the tournament three precious months to promote their participation. All of it done for 'the good of the industry', of course!

McIlroy played Lake Malaren last week as defending champion and will be in action for the next three weeks in succession, starting in Singapore, followed by yet another title defence in Hong Kong and then the Dubai World Championship.

His decision to take a week off in Sofia, Bulgaria, to watch girlfriend Caroline Wozniacki play in the WTA Tournament of Champions makes perfect sense, regardless of any wailing by sponsors or gnashing of media teeth.

Facing a choice between the $7m HSBC in Shanghai and the $6m Barclays Open in Singapore, McIlroy made a straightforward 'business' decision to opt for the latter as he tries to emulate Luke Donald and win the money list on both the US Tour and European Tour in the same year.

Hanson is in the mix for back-to-back wins in China, which would inch him past McIlroy in the Race to Dubai. The Swede is now expected to try to capitalise further on current good form by entering Singapore and maybe Hong Kong.

Justin Rose, third in the money list, had his victory hopes dented by a disappointing level-par 72. Interestingly, Rose has joined McIlroy, Hanson, Donald and Graeme McDowell in naming Paul McGinley as his top choice for Ryder Cup captain in 2014. G-Mac shot 71 yesterday.

WGC HSBC Champions,

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