Sport Golf

Sunday 18 February 2018

Shane Lowry and Paul Dunne lead Irish Masters charge as Rory McIlroy digs deep

Rory McIlroy suffered a bad viral infection in China 18 months ago which has led to an irregularity in his heart. ‘I just need to stay on top of it,’ he says.
Rory McIlroy suffered a bad viral infection in China 18 months ago which has led to an irregularity in his heart. ‘I just need to stay on top of it,’ he says.
Shane Lowry of Ireland. Photo: Getty Images

William S Callahan

Tyrrell Hatton backed up his opening-round of 63 with a second-round five-under-par 65 to hold a three-shot lead in the British Masters as Shane Lowry, Paul Dunne and Graeme McDowell finished the day a further six shots back.

Lowry carded a four-under round of 66 at the Close House course near Newcastle.

The Offaly man shot six birdies yesterday, which were only undone with bogeys at the ninth and 12th holes, allowing him to finish on six-under overall and tied for 10th.

At the ninth Lowry approached the pin with a sand wedge but missed the green and failed to get up-and-down before three-putting a good birdie chance at the 12th to bookend a poor four-hole run.

The 30-year-old shares tenth with fellow Irishmen Paul Dunne and Graeme McDowell, who both also shot 68 yesterday.

Rory McIlroy's second round did not get off to the best of starts. The world No 6 carded two bogeys in his opening five holes, but three birdies followed, ensuring he made the cut after a 69, trailing Hatton by eight shots.

The English leader coped admirably with the wet conditions in the north-east of England, carding six birdies to sit 12-under at the halfway stage.

"I'm really happy with the first two days and hopefully I can continue that and take that into the weekend," said Hatton.

"I'd like to play as well as I can and climb up the world rankings and secure (a place) in all four Majors again next year."

The leaderboard is dominated by his compatriots, with Ashley Chesters, Lee Westwood, Ian Poulter and Chris Hanson joined by Sweden's Robert Karlsson in second on nine-under.

One Major winner who failed to make the cut was Masters champion Sergio Garcia. The Spanish world No 10 could only muster one birdie all round as his tournament came to an end.

Hatton, meanwhile, bemoaned missing out on the launch of FIFA 18 as he remained on course for some real silverware at the halfway stage of the British Masters.

"I'm absolutely devastated I can't play FIFA 18," Hatton said after a round containing six birdies and one bogey. "It's just as well I'm away for another few weeks otherwise I'd probably waste 12 hours a day on it.

"I'm looking forward to getting home and playing that, but at the same time I'm really looking forward to the weekend ahead.

"I went to this event with the England U-18 practice squad when it was at The Belfry and it's a great event, one that I'll always have on my schedule.

"It's good to be back in form with a big run of events coming up with huge world ranking points."

Westwood added a 65 to his opening 66 and has yet to drop a shot this week despite coping with the demands of hosting the event, which included hiring an extra field for additional parking as more than 18,000 spectators attended on Thursday.

"It was nice to stand on that first tee yesterday and see so many people here and the course in such great condition, and then it was nice to play so well," the former world No 1 said.

Busy

"I've been busy for a year basically, then very busy for the last week and extremely busy for the last three days, so when I slipped my spikes on yesterday afternoon it was a bit of a relief to actually be a golfer again, to come up here and not have somebody asking where we're putting a tee or where we're putting a flag."

Poulter celebrated his 10th wedding anniversary by also shooting a 65 to move into contention for a first victory since 2012, four of his six birdies coming in succession from the 12th.

"It's generally the week of the Ryder Cup so that's always been an awkward one as well," Poulter said of his anniversary. "Katie's not here but I sent a big bunch of roses."

Poulter's last victory came in the WGC-HSBC Champions in China, but the former Ryder Cup star is simply focusing on trying to qualify for that same event this year.

Meanwhile, Seamus Power birdied the last hole for a one-under-par second round of 70 to make the cut on five-under par in the Web.com Tour Championship.

The Waterford man aims to retain his full PGA Tour status for next year but faces a stiff challenge after a day of low scoring in Florida yesterday where Sam Saunders followed up his first round 59 with a 66 to lie 12 shots clear of Power at the head of the field.

British Masters,

Live, Sky Sports Golf, 11.30

The Presidents Cup,

Live, Sky Sports Golf, 5.0

Irish Independent

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