Monday 22 July 2019

Lowry plans to stay 'aggressive' in victory push

Shane Lowry. Photo: AP
Shane Lowry. Photo: AP

Brian Keogh

Shane Lowry knows he must remain "aggressive" and kill off the opposition after a joint best-of-the-day 67 gave him a three-shot lead heading into the final round of the Abu Dhabi HSBC Championship.

The Offaly man (31) is taking nothing for granted as he seeks his first win for close to three-and-a-half years and a priceless move back into the world's top 50, even after making nine twos on the par-threes over the first three days.

"I'm not going to say I feel invincible because we all know that this game is not easy, and it can jump up and bite you when you least expect it," Lowry said when asked about his stellar play on the short holes.

"Obviously I'm in a great position. It's been a while since I've been up having a lead going into Sunday. I'll enjoy it. Have a nice dinner tonight and get ready tomorrow and give it my best tomorrow and see what happens."

While pundit Paul McGinley believes it would be "extraordinary" if the world number 75 failed to complete a wire-to-wire win given the quality of his play so far and his "off the charts" performance on the par-threes, Lowry is sticking to the tried-and-trusted clichés.

"We're in a world-class field here this week so I know they are going to come out firing tomorrow," he said as the Bee Gees' "Stayin' Alive" blared on the speakers outside the recorder's tent.

"So I need to stay aggressive and try to make as many birdies as I can and see where that leaves me on the 18th green."

Lowry will be hoping there's no 'Saturday Night Fever' and he's hearing 'You Win Again' on the speakers today.

A sub-70 final round would force Sterne (37), whose solitary tour win came in the Joburg Open six years ago, to shoot 65 and leave a jetlagged, Ryder Cup postman Ian Poulter (43), who is five behind after a closing eagle, requiring a special delivery.

Narrow fairways have kept the bombers in check and Lowry's iron play, short game and putting have set him apart.

After following an early birdie four at the second with a bogey at the par-three fourth, a hat-trick of birdies from the sixth left him four ahead through nine.

Sterne would get to within two shots with an eagle at the 10th but Lowry took his tally of birdie twos for the week to an incredible nine from 12 attempts when he made a 10-footer down the hill at the 12th and an 18-footer at the 15th to lead by three.

After missing a seven-footer for par at the 16th, he then underlined his class with two stellar blows that set up a confidence-boosting, two-putt birdie from the fringe at the 18th to lead by three shots on 18-under.

There is no doubting he has the stomach for battle as he showed in that epic Irish Open win as an amateur ten years ago or when closing with a 66 to win the 2015 WGC-Bridgestone Invitational by two shots. While he led the 2016 US Open by four strokes on Sunday at Oakmont and shot 76 to finish tied second behind Dustin Johnson, there's a real purpose and maturity about Lowry now.

At the PGA Tour's Desert Classic in California, Seamus Power is facing his fifth missed cut in a row and his sixth in seven starts this season after following his opening 74 at the Stadium Course with a one-over 73.

At three-over par, the West Waterford man (31) may need to break 60 at the Nicklaus Tournament Course today to make the top-70 and ties who qualify for tomorrow's final round.

Power got back to level for the tournament after 11 holes when he followed a bogey at the second with three birdies. But he then double-bogeyed the par-three 15th and bogeyed the 16th in a 32-putt round to slip to tied 150th

Overnight leader Phil Mickelson found his putting touch late in the day and birdied four of his last five holes on the Nicklaus Tournament Course to add a four-under 68 to his impressive first round 60 at La Quinta and lead in the clubhouse on 16-under par.

  • Abu Dhabi HSBC Championship, Live, Sky Sports, 7.0am
  • Desert Classic, Live, Sky Sports Golf, 8.0pm

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