Lowry eyes G-Mac revenge mission
Clara star gunning for ‘good friend’ at Volvo Match Play
GRAEME McDOWELL and Shane Lowry could be heading for another mega 'mano a mano' showdown in next month's Volvo World Match Play Championship in Bulgaria.
One on the highlights of Lowry's season so far was his first-round victory over one good friend, Rory McIlroy, in the first round of the Accenture Match Play in Tucson.
This was followed in quick succession by his rout of Carl Pettersson in the second round, then defeat against another close pal and Horizon stablemate McDowell in a match the Clara man described as "a great learning experience".
Well, Lowry will be able to put some of that education to good use at the Thracian Cliffs Golf and Beach Resort in Kavarna, with the opportunity to have a second pop at G-Mac in the offing.
By winning last October's Portugal Masters, his first European Tour title as a professional, Lowry earned his place in the elite 24-man Volvo field in Bulgaria.
Though McDowell has not qualified, I understand the Portrush man, beaten only by European Ryder Cup colleague Nicolas Colsaerts in last year's Volvo decider, will receive a sponsor's invite to this year's showpiece.
It was fascinating recently to hear Lowry talk recently of his experience at February's Accenture World Golf Championship, especially his third-round showdown with McDowell.
There are few more affable, urbane and popular individuals in professional golf than 2010 US Open champion McDowell, but once he gets down to business on the golf course, the 33-year-old focuses entirely on one objective: closing the deal.
"Graeme was quite tough to play against. I think he psyched me out a bit in that third round," Lowry admits. "He's obviously a great match player and knows what he's doing. He won the battle that day."
Despite enjoying what he describes as a "very good friendship" with McDowell, Lowry reveals: "There wasn't any chat at all (during their match in Tucson).
"It took me by surprise because the first couple of days at the Accenture, there was chat for the first few holes (with his opponents) and then, obviously, we'd get down to the business end of things."
A similar surprise laid in store for McIlroy when he teed it up against his fellow Ulsterman in the Volvo a couple of years back. After he picked up his tee peg on the first, McIlroy was about to say something to G-Mac when he noticed his good mate was already some 20 yards up the fairway.
McIlroy later remembered thinking: "So it's going to be like that then." For the record, McDowell prevailed that day too, as he did against Lowry (by 3&2) in Tucson.
"Graeme holed a couple of bombs on the front nine; I missed a couple of short ones so that was the match over really," the Offaly man explains, adding with admiration: "I learned a lot from getting beaten that day.
"Sometimes you learn a lot more from getting beat than when you win."
Irish golf will relish the prospect of their paths crossing once again in Kavarna in the week separating the US Tour's showpiece Players Championship at Sawgrass and Europe's blue riband BMW PGA Championship at Wentworth.
Both McDowell and Lowry are in action on opposite sides of 'the Pond' this week.
Disappointed to miss the cut at the Masters, McDowell plays in today's first round of the RBC Heritage at Harbour Town Golf Club with Luke Donald and Tim Clark in a tournament which features Australia's nearly-men at Augusta, Jason Day and Marc Leishman, plus FedEx Cup holder Brandt Snedeker.
Lowry, who was fairly impressive as he tied 15th at the recent Valero Texas Open, has been drawn with Ryder Cup captain Jose Maria Olazabal and his fellow Spaniard Rafael Cabrera-Bello in the opening round of the Open de Espana.
Freed at last from his fruitless race to make the world's top 50 and qualify for his first Masters, Lowry (26) should be able to give an uninhibited account of himself on the splendid El Saler course.
Just outside Valencia, El Saler has seven holes running through seaside dunes and 11 in typical Mediterranean pine forest.
Hugely popular Spaniard Miguel Angel Jimenez makes his return to Tour action today after four months recovering from a broken leg sustained while skiing in the Sierra Nevada mountains close to his native Malaga last December.
"My leg is improving daily," said Jimenez, who replaced Des Smyth at the oldest winner on the European Tour when he romped home at age 48 and 318 days in last November's Hong Kong Open.
"My recovery is ahead of schedule but I'm not 100pc yet," he added.
"I just want to test myself and see how I feel."
It's a measure of hard times in Spain right now that there's no title sponsor for this year's Open de Espana and, with the purse reduced by 25pc to €1.5m, the €250,000 first prize is more than €80,000 less than when Peter Lawrie lifted this title in Seville in 2008.
Open de Espana, Live, Sky Sports 2, 11.0
The Heritage, Live, Sky Sports 3, 8.0