Thursday 26 April 2018

Lowry joins Harrington on early flight home from Augusta despite brave late rally

Clara ace misses cut on debut but gets close-up view of Masters tutorial from Green Jacket veteran

Shane Lowry got no more than he deserved on 17 when he holed a 27-foot birdie putt to bring himself back to even-par. Photo: Andrew Redington/Getty Images
Shane Lowry got no more than he deserved on 17 when he holed a 27-foot birdie putt to bring himself back to even-par. Photo: Andrew Redington/Getty Images

Karl MacGinty

Shane Lowry got close to greatness at Augusta National yesterday, in the shape of his playing companion Mark O'Meara.

The 58-year-old Texan, whose two Major victories came at the 1998 Masters and Open Championship, gave a veritable tutorial on how to play Augusta during a superbly-crafted second round of 68.

Not that Lowry had much time for watching O'Meara.

Like the vast majority of debutants at Augusta National, the Clara man's focus was irrevocably set on his own step-by-step trip through golf's most treacherous minefield.

After giving himself a chance of survival with two defiant birdies down the stretch in his first-round 75, 28-year-old Lowry yesterday pulled a couple more rabbits out of the hat on those closing holes yesterday for an even-par 72.

At three-over par, Lowry (right) appeared likely to make the weekend as winds kicked-up in early afternoon ... but those hopes would be dashed by day's end..

Lowry got no more than he deserved on 17 when he holed a 27-foot birdie putt to bring himself back to even-par after a rash decision to go for the green at the par-five 15th saw him splash down short of the green on his way to a six. That bogey ultimately turned out to be crucial.

"I'd have been pretty happy to make the cut, the way I've played the last couple of days, I've struggled," Lowry admitted. "I struggled off the tee a lot.

"Drove it okay today but one bad one on 13. I was just not getting it out there. I wasn't my normal self," added the Offaly man, who'd cause to lament the double-bogeys he made on 11 and 13 on Thursday.

"I said to myself at the start of the week 'you can't afford to make double-bogeys and I'd two of them yesterday," he said ruefully.

Figuratively, Lowry played the first 36 holes with one hand tied behind his back as the snap-hook which lurks disconcertingly in his swing forced him to crank down the power-gauge on his drives.

O'Meara made five birdies and dropped just one shot, from the front trap at the gruelling par three fourth, as he compiled his first sub-70 round in 14 years at Augusta and ended a run of eight consecutive missed cuts at The Masters on four-under.

"He played fantastic over the two days and putted lovely," said Lowry. "He just didn't do anything wrong. He's a true professional."

Asked if there were any pointers he took from O'Meara's mastery of Augusta, Lowry said: "You are too busy concentrating on your own performance out there, it's such a tough course, especially with the wind blowing from every direction.

"One thing, perhaps," he added with a smile. "Lay up short of the water at 15, hit it to four feet and leave yourself a four-foot birdie putt."

Furious with himself for dropping two shots in the final three holes of a first-round 72 in which he needed to use his putter a mind-warping 36 times, Padraig Harrington summed-up his situation overnight when he said: "two-under, you're looking forward. Level-par, you're looking backwards. That's the way it is."

Well, the devil caught up with him yesterday as a second-round 77 left him on five-over and likely to miss the cut, a three-putt bogey from nine feet at 18 yesterday effectively summing up his week.

The omens weren't good from the off yesterday as Harrington ended-up looking accusingly across the first fairway at Thomas Bjorn after his Danish playing companion, walking 40 yards ahead, strayed into the Dubliner's eye-line as he played his second shot out of the right fairway bunker.

That small issue was resolved as they walked to be green but Harrington still was short-sided in a shallow swale through the back of the green.

The crowd rose as his chip trickled within millimetres of the cup, then sighed as it crept past, coming to rest eight feet away. He two-putted for the first of six bogeys on his card.

There was little sign of the usual Harrington smile as he missed fairways and greens both left and right with damning regularity, this time his putter frequently coming to his rescue.

Bjorn unwittingly stepped into the picture again at five.

After Harrington missed the green left with a towering wedge after his tee-shot had landed in a deep hollow to wide of the fairway and behind a copse of tall trees, he was left with a testing chip across the bunker.

As he commenced his pre-shot routine, Bjorn innocently stepped onto the green to mark his ball resting four feet from the cup. The Dane froze as Harrington stepped back ... before chunking the shot into the sand. Bogey.

Fate conspired again at seven when his huge tee-shot rolled into the right semi-rough, leaving his direct route to the flag blocked by trees. He tried to cut the shot but his ball flew straight into an awkward spot through the back. Another bogey.

On and on it seemed to go. Having secured his return to The Masters with last month's victory at the Honda, Harrington arrived at Augusta with his morale soaring, making his disappointment all the more intense when the putting demons caught up with him again on Thursday.

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