Thursday 27 June 2019

Paul Dunne and Shane Lowry in contention for Masters spot as they edge stay in contention at Houston Open

Paul Dunne and (inset) Shane Lowry
Paul Dunne and (inset) Shane Lowry
Shane Lowry. Photo: Getty Images

The last chance saloon could have a distinctly European flavour after Paul Dunne, Shane Lowry, Ian Poulter and Lee Westwood kept their hopes of a place in the Masters alive.

Only the winner of the Shell Houston Open, who is not otherwise exempt, can claim the final place available at Augusta National for the first major championship of the year.

And although American Beau Hossler was in pole position to do that after adding a 68 to his opening 65 to reach 11 under par, the European quartet remained in with a chance at the Golf Club of Houston.

Dunne, who held off Rory McIlroy to win his first European Tour title in the British Masters last year, was the best placed after adding a 71 to his opening 64, which had briefly given him the outright lead after the delayed first round was completed on Friday morning.

But Lowry was just a stroke behind after carding five birdies and one bogey in a second consecutive 68, with Poulter another stroke back on seven under following a superb 64.

Poulter was among the 33 players who had to finish their first rounds on Friday after a two-hour delay on the opening day caused by more than two inches of rain falling on the course overnight.

That meant an 0720 start (local time) to play just one hole and complete a disappointing 73, but the former Ryder Cup star quickly turned things around when play resumed.

Starting from the 10th, Poulter birdied the 12th, 13th, 15th and 17th to reach the turn in 32 and picked up four further shots on the front nine to equal the lowest round of the week so far.

Poulter agonisingly missed out on a place at Augusta via the world rankings, his quarter-final defeat in the WGC-Dell Technologies Match Play last week leaving him 0.03 points adrift of the required place in the top 50.

Justin Rose, who lost out to Sergio Garcia in a play-off in the Masters last year, was alongside Poulter on seven under following a 69.

Westwood has not missed the Masters since 2004 and was second to Danny Willett as recently as 2016, but has slipped to 90th in the world and shot 78 in his last competitive round before this week in the World Super 6 in February.

The former world number one is six shots off the pace after adding a 70 to his opening 69.

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