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Lowry surges to stay hot on Garcia's heels in Sun City

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Sergio Garcia plays out of the 16th greenside bunker yesterday’s second round of the Nedbank Golf Challenge. Photo: Getty Images

Sergio Garcia plays out of the 16th greenside bunker yesterday’s second round of the Nedbank Golf Challenge. Photo: Getty Images

Sergio Garcia plays out of the 16th greenside bunker yesterday’s second round of the Nedbank Golf Challenge. Photo: Getty Images

Shane Lowry surged into contention for the Nedbank Golf Challenge as Rory McIlroy endured another rollercoaster round in Sun City.

World No 70 Lowry closed with a birdie to add a three-under 69 to his opening 71 and move up to tied fourth, just five strokes behind Sergio Garcia on four-under par and remain on course to continue his rise in the Race to Dubai and the world rankings.

But it was another frustrating day for McIlroy at Gary Player Country Club and a microcosm of his year as he posted an erratic, one-under 71 that left him where he started the day, eight behind Garcia.

The Co Down man knows he can afford to finish no worse than second if he's to have any chance of overtaking Francesco Molinari with a win in next week's season-ending DP World Tour Championship and claim his fourth Race to Dubai title.

But after starting promisingly with birdies at the second and third, he missed too many fairways and mixed three bogeys with two birdies in an exasperating spell mid-round, even missing a two-foot tiddler for par at the eighth.

"It's been a frustrating couple of days," confessed McIlroy, who is tied for 19th on one-under par. "My game is not really where I want it to be, but I've got two more opportunities this week to try and put a couple of good rounds together and then go to Dubai and try to finish the season on a high.

"I need to tidy up my game off the tee, and then if I do that, you can give yourself a lot of chances around here, but you need to get the ball in the fairway first."

Lowry, who is 41st in the Race to Dubai but targeting at least a top-30 spot that would earn him an exemption next year's Open Championship at Royal Portrush, birdied the second and fifth to move up the leaderboard.

He then finished well after a bogey at the eighth by following a birdie four at the 14th with a par save from 15 feet at the 16th and an impressive closing birdie from just eight feet.

In-form Garcia extended his four-shot overnight lead to five as he turned in 33. But the Spaniard bogeyed two of his last three holes, three-putting the 18th to finish the day just a shot ahead of local favourite Louis Oosthuizen (67) on nine-under.

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Finn Mikko Korhonen is just three behind in solo third after a 70 with Lowry lurking ominously, tied for fourth with South Africa's Dylan Frittelli and English pair Aaron Rai and Lee Westwood on four-under.

Pádraig Harrington, who will likely need a top-seven finish to make the top 60 in the Race to Dubai standings who qualify for next week's season-ending event, shot another 73 to slip to 37th on two-over.

But it was a better day for Greystones' Paul Dunne, who chiselled out a 71 on a course that doesn't suit his game to move up to 57th in the 72-man field on five-over.

On the PGA Tour, Séamus Power missed his third cut in four starts this season at the Mayakoba Golf Classic in Mexico. The West Waterford man (31) added a three-over 74 to his opening 72, racking up a quadruple-bogey eight at his ninth hole, the 18th, to finish well down the leaderboard on four-over at El Camaleon Golf Club.

Graeme McDowell (39) was in danger of joining him on the sidelines after a second successive 70 left him a shot outside the projected cut on two-under, tied with out-of-form Jordan Spieth, who shot 69.

Matt Kuchar leads the field on 14-under after hitting another seven-under 64 to sit two shots ahead of Cameron Champ, who won his maiden title at the Sanderson Farms Championship a fortnight ago.

Fears

Meanwhile, Mount Juliet's Gavin Moynihan fears his bid for a European Tour card could be over before it starts after suffering a back injury on the eve of the g European Tour Qualifying School in Spain.

The Dubliner felt his back go as he practised at Lumine Golf Club in Tarragona yesterday and may not be able to join Tramore's Robin Dawson and Ardglass' Cormac Sharvin at the Lakes Course for today's first round of the six-round race to finish in the top 25 and ties.

Dawson, who turned 22 yesterday, is brimming with confidence after finishing tied sixth with former Walker Cup star Sharvin, missed the cut by three shots at the Final Stage last year, at the Second Stage in Madrid earlier this week.

The 156-strong field features the likes of former European Tour winners Matteo Manassero and Marc Warren and former Ryder Cup player Oliver Wilson.

The top 70 and ties after 72 holes make the cut and secure Challenge Tour status but only the top 25 and ties after six rounds are awarded European Tour cards.

Nedbank Challenge, Live, Sky Sports, 8.0am

Mayakoba Classic, Live, Sky Sports, 6.0pm


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