Friday 19 January 2018

Shane Lowry’s good form continues in China despite closing holes

Shane Lowry walks with his caddie on the 14th fairway during the first day of the HSBC Champions at Mission Hills. Photo: Reuters
Shane Lowry walks with his caddie on the 14th fairway during the first day of the HSBC Champions at Mission Hills. Photo: Reuters

Mark Garrod

SHANE Lowry, who qualified by winning the Portugal Masters three weeks ago, looked set to be the star of the show when he reached eight under after 16 holes in the WGC-HSBC Champions in China today.

But unfortunately the Offaly man finished disappointingly.

Lowry, also fifth last week at the BMW Masters in Shanghai, missed the green at the short 17th and after failing to get up and down there he paid the price for driving into sand on the last.

Another bogey dropped the 25-year-old into a tie for third with three of this week's favourites - Masters champion Bubba Watson, four-time major champion Phil Mickelson and last week's winner Peter Hanson.

Instead, a spectacular finish by Australian Adam Scott gave him a share of the lead with South African Louis Oosthuizen after the first.

Scott, who blew the Open in July with four closing bogeys, this time followed back-to-back birdies with a 10-foot eagle putt on the 573Äyard ninth at Mission Hills in Shenzhen.

That gave the 32-year-old a seven-under-par 65 minutes after 2010 Open champion Louis Oosthuizen had rolled home a 14-foot birdie putt on the same green to set the clubhouse target.

Mickelson, seeking a third victory in the event, matched Scott's eagle on the ninth, in his case from 25 feet, and said: “My game feels really good.

“It's gotten better each week since the PGA Championship and hopefully I can carry on - I certainly feel confident that I will be able to.”

Fellow left-hander Watson, who eagled the 568-yard 11th and also had seven birdies to make up for three bogeys, said: “The course sets up good for a little cut off the tee and the greens are rolling so true.”

Hanson is hoping to take advantage of Rory McIlroy's controversial decision - and that of Tiger Woods - to miss the final world championship of the season.

After holding off world number one McIlroy last weekend for the best win of his career so far, Hanson has a chance to overtake the Northern Irishman on the European Tour money list with only three weeks left in the race.

The Swede, playing with Watson, was relieved to finish with a par five on the ninth, however. He blasted his drive well wide and hit another ball off the tee, but he was able to advance the first one down the fairway.

“It was a good celebration on Sunday night and I took it easy on Monday,” Hanson said.

“You know you are playing well, but you have to stay fresh and it's all about keeping your head in the right mindset and keep playing aggressive.”

Dustin Johnson, another of the six American Ryder Cup players who made the trip, eagled the seventh in a 67 that gave him a share of seventh place with Thai golfer Prom Meesewat.

Luke Donald is among those one further back, while Ian Poulter, Paul Lawrie and defending champion Martin Kaymer shot 69s.

Lee Westwood needed three closing birdies for a 70, the same as Open champion Ernie Els on his return from an ankle injury, but Justin Rose, third on the European Order of Merit and like Hanson with an opportunity to go to number one this weekend, had to be content with a 72.

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