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Leona Maguire and John Murphy in title hunt at Galgorm while Shane Lowry best of FedEx Irish

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Shane Lowry plays his tee shot at the seventh hole – en route to a second successive two-under 68 – at the FedEx St Jude Championship at TPC Southwind in Memphis, Tennessee Credit: Getty Images

Shane Lowry plays his tee shot at the seventh hole – en route to a second successive two-under 68 – at the FedEx St Jude Championship at TPC Southwind in Memphis, Tennessee Credit: Getty Images

Shane Lowry plays his tee shot at the seventh hole – en route to a second successive two-under 68 – at the FedEx St Jude Championship at TPC Southwind in Memphis, Tennessee Credit: Getty Images

Leona Maguire and John Murphy can inspire each other in the ISPS Handa World Invitational at Galgorm Castle, but Shane Lowry looked set to be the lone Irishman making moves in the FedEx Cup Playoffs in Memphis.

Lowry was a shot outside the projected two-under-par cut line with eight holes to go in the FedEx St Jude Championship at TPC Southwind before he reeled off four birdies in his next six holes en route to a second successive 68.

The Clara man was in the middle of the pack on four-under, six shots behind Austria’s Sepp Straka, the man who pipped him for the Honda Classic in February.

While Lowry found water with his approach and bogeyed the last, Straka birdied four of his last five holes and carded a four-under 66 to lead by a shot in the clubhouse from Denny McCarthy on 10-under.

It was a different story for Rory McIlroy and Séamus Power, though the Holywood star had an outside chance of hanging on for the weekend.

While he missed too many fairways, Power’s iron play let him down as he found just 12 greens in regulation over the first two days and followed a one-over 71 with a 73 to miss the cut on four-over.

McIlroy struggled from the tee, and while he made four birdies, he made his third bogey of the day at the 18th as he failed to pull off an adventurous cut from the trees, and his 69 left a shot outside the projected two-under-par cut.

With the top 70 set to play next week’s BMW Championship, Power was projected to fall 10 spots from 24th to 34th in the FedEx Cup standings, with sixth-ranked McIlroy also safe as he was set to drop just two spots to eighth.

There was far better news for the Irish in Co Antrim, where Maguire carded a three-under 69 at Massereene to go into the weekend tied for fifth on eight-under par in her quest for her second LPGA win this season.

She’s just three strokes behind American Amanda Doherty, who shot a five-under 67 at the same venue to lead by a shot from Denmark’s Emily Kristine Pedersen and the USA’s Lauren Coughlin on 11-under par.

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“I hit the ball a lot nicer today, gave myself lots of chances, and overall pretty happy,” Maguire said after making four birdies and a bogey. “I could have holed a few more putts coming in, but three-under around Massereene, I’m pretty happy with that.

“You don’t really have to do a whole lot wrong around here. It’s tighter than Galgorm off the tee, so I gave myself a few nice chances on 3, 4, 5, and 7. Just didn’t convert those.”

With huge crowds at both venues, she’s hoping to put on a show for the home fans after Stephanie Meadow and Olivia Mehaffey missed the one-over-par cut.

While Mehaffey shot 80 at Massereene to finish on 10-over, Meadow missed by two shots after a 72 at the same venue and said she was “highly unlikely” to play the KPMG Women’s Irish Open at Dromoland Castle next month.

Just five of the 16 Irishmen made the one-over cut in the DP World Tour event with Kinsale’s John Murphy tied ninth on four-under, just five shots behind Scotland’s Ewen Ferguson, after a one-under 69 at Massereene.

“I didn’t play well at all today, so nice to get it around in one-under,” said Murphy, who was playing just ahead of Maguire and felt the enthusiasm from her gallery.

“I suppose I was only a few groups ahead of her, so I could sense the atmosphere she brought out here and hopefully carry that into tomorrow.”

David Carey shot a three-over 73 at Galgorm Castle and Paul Dunne a 72 at Massereene to leave them tied 41st on level-par, while Tom McKibbin shot 72 and Gary Hurley made a 40-footer for birdie at the last for a 71 at Massereene to make the cut on the mark.

On the Challenge Tour, James Sugrue, Robin Dawson and Rowan Lester made the cut in the Frederikshavn Challenge in Denmark.

Sugrue and Dawson shot one-over 73s to slip to 41st on two-under, 10 strokes behind Germany’s Freddy’s Schott, as Lester made the level-par-cut with a shot to spare after a fine 69.

In amateur golf, Annabel Wilson battled her way into last night’s quarter-finals of the US Women’s Amateur Championship at Chambers Bay in Washington State.

Set to face California’s Catherine Rao, she’s the first Irish player to reach the quarter-finals since Mary McKenna in 1980.

Nearer home, Royal Portrush’s Laura Webb won the Irish Senior Women’s Amateur by seven shots at Malone as Roscommon’s Olivia Costello fell 3&2 to Wales’ Emily James in the last 16 and New Forest’s Adam Kelly lost 4&2 to France’s Louis Ancheaux in round two of the Boys’ and Girls’ Amateur Championship at Carnoustie.


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