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Lowry display brings back Baltray memories

MEMORIES of stormy Baltray and the beautiful bedlam of last May's Irish Open came flooding back in the Arabian Desert yesterday.

"Hmmm, feels like I've been here before," said Shane Lowry, 22, with a cheeky grin as he eased himself into an armchair in the media centre after his flawless second round 65 at The Abu Dhabi Championship. With those few words this young man from Clara expressed the sense of deja vu felt by every Irishman in the room.

The last time he'd been summoned to a press conference on Friday at a Tour event was in Co Louth last summer when he had shot the staggering second-round 62 that set him up for the most sensational victory in the history of his national open.

Yesterday's flawless effort in the desert sun initially had been for a share of the lead with Sergio Garcia and Sweden's Peter Hanson on 11-under -- until Australian Rick Kulacz eased one stroke ahead late in the day with a splendid 63.

Outwardly, Lowry doesn't look much different than before but the eight months since taking his first uncertain steps into the professional arena have changed him into a more polished, self-assured golfer.

"Since the Irish Open I've started to practice a lot more and I think I'm seeing the benefits. My swing has become neater and there are fewer bad shots.

"After Baltray, I knew my good golf was good enough but you have to try and ensure that when you play badly, you still can achieve a better score ... be more consistent."

One man not surprised by Lowry's display is Rory McIlroy. "Shane's playing great. He took money off me in Dubai last week," he said.

McIlroy himself also played sublimely over the opening 36 holes in Abu Dhabi as he eased into a five-way tie for eighth place on nine-under. Yet, despite finding all 18 greens in regulation, McIlroy spurned a procession of birdie chances.

Insisting he's happy with his putting stroke, McIlroy explained that the brownish colour of the greens made it difficult for him to read the break. "I struggled to read several putts today -- I think I'll be calling in JP (Fitzgerald, his caddie) a little more."