Saturday 18 August 2018

McIlroy rides his luck to stay in the hunt

Shane Lowry in action at the Barracuda Championship. Photo by Christian Petersen/Getty Images
Shane Lowry in action at the Barracuda Championship. Photo by Christian Petersen/Getty Images

Brian Keogh

Rory McIlroy took advantage of some clutch putting and two late strokes of luck to keep the leaders in his sights in the WGC-Bridgestone Invitational in Akron.

The Holywood star struggled with his wedges and was just one under for his round with two holes to play.

But he holed out from a greenside bunker for an unlikely birdie at the 17th, then got a friendly ricochet off a marshal at the 18th and took advantage by rolling in a five-footer for his fifth birdie of the day.

His three-under 67 left him just three shots behind leaders Ian Poulter (67), Justin Thomas (64) and Tommy Fleetwood (63) on eight-under par.

'Drawn' in a stellar group with Tiger Woods and defending champion Justin Thomas for next week's US PGA, McIlroy admitted he rode his luck.

"It was nice to finish like that," he said. "I was getting frustrated out there but that finish on the last couple of holes makes up for it and I am right there going into the weekend."

Tiger Woods is five off the pace and Paul Dunne ten behind after they both shot two-under 68s.

Meanwhile, Shane Lowry kept his hopes of retaining his PGA Tour card alive when he moved into contention at the Barracuda Championship in Reno.

While a solo third-place finish could leave him within touching distance of the top 125 in the FedEx Cup standings with two events of the regular season remaining, a win would catapult him into the top 100 and secure a two-year exemption.

"Obviously I'd prefer to be in Akron," said Lowry, who made seven birdies and two bogeys to rack up 12 modified stableford points to lie just one point behind clubhouse leaders Sam Saunders and Andrew Putnam at Montreux Golf & Country Club. "But this is a very good second to that.

"I had a promising week the last weekend. And things are going well this week. Hopefully I can do the business the next few weeks and keep my card over here.

"But overall my season has been very average. I'm not missing so many cuts but I'm finishing down the field every week weekend."

Making the top 125 in the FedExCup is also the goal for 123rd ranked Seamus Power, who was stung by hornets during his first round.

"I got swarmed by five or six of them and they stung me quite a bit," said Power, who was among the late starters last night. "A couple got under my shirt and stung me. I've been stung before, but never anything like that."

Padraig Harrington (222nd) and Graeme McDowell (143rd) desperately need a big week to improve their chances of making the playoffs but neither made in-roads yesterday.

Harrington's meagre haul of two birdies was erased by three bogeys and he accumulated just one point to share 51st on seven points with McDowell, who made two birdies and one bogey yesterday to add three points to his tally.

On the Challenge Tour, Gavin Moynihan (73), Neil O'Briain (72) and Cormac Sharvin (74) missed the cut in the Swedish Challenge.

At the Staysure PGA Seniors Championship, Paul McGinley (72) was the best of the Irish, nine strokes off the pace in joint 32nd.

WGC-Bridgestone Invitational,

Live, Sky Sports Golf, 6.30

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