Lowry leads at County Louth

Shane Lowry, another rising Irish star, became only the second amateur to lead a European Tour event at the halfway stage.

Shane Lowry, yet another rising Irish golf star, today became only the second amateur to lead a European Tour event at the halfway stage.
And the 22-year-old plus-five handicapper did it in quite spectacular fashion in The 3 Irish Open – his first Tour event – at rain-lashed County Louth.
While local hero Padraig Harrington failed to survive the halfway cut despite improving five shots on his opening 73 and American star John Daly went out as well, the comparatively little-known Lowry scorched round the Baltray links in a magical 10-under-par 62.
And that matches the lowest round ever achieved by an amateur on the circuit, by German Sven Struver 20 years ago.
“It’s like a dream really – when do I wake up?” he said after taking a two-stroke lead over England’s Robert Rock and Welshman Jamie Donaldson.
“This is as good as I can ask for and it’s hard not to think about winning now, but I’m just going to go out and play as best I can.”
Listed at 16th in the world amateur rankings and the son of a famous Gaelic footballer, Lowry’s 36-hole total of 129, 15 under, is the best by an amateur in Tour history.
His 62 would also have broken the course record but for the fact that just over an hour earlier Northern Ireland’s Graeme McDowell blitzed an incredible 61 – the lowest round of his professional career and an unbelievable 16-stroke improvement on his opening 77.
Those were not the only two dramatic rounds, however. Former Open champion Paul Lawrie won himself a £40,000 car for a hole-in-one on the 17th as he kept alive his hopes of a first victory for seven years.
Lawrie had his second successive 66, but that was good enough only for fourth place, three behind Lowry.
The County Offaly golfer also now holds the tournament record score for the first two rounds in relation to par. Patrik Sjoland shot 129 as well at Ballybunion in 2000, but that was a par 71 lay-out.
Such was the overall scoring that when the cut fell at four under, one better than Harrington managed, it lowered that Irish Open record by two.
However, if Lowry does go on to triumph he would not even be the first amateur to win this season. New Zealander Danny Lee did it at the Johnnie Walker Classic in Australia in February.
Yet the day had threatened to be dominated by bad weather.
The overnight and early morning rain was so bad that all public car parks – mostly in fields – were closed and fans were diverted to nearby retail parks, from where a shuttle bus service operated.
Because of the forecast tees were moved forward as well, reducing the length by over 200 yards, but when conditions improved in the afternoon the links were there for the taking again.
The day-old course record of 63 by Francesco Molinari instantly came under threat and the poor Italian, disqualified for signing for a wrong score on his return, did not even hang on to that.
McDowell established a new mark after a scintillating start in which he played the first eight in eight under with an eagle and six birdies.
“I was thinking 59 – it’s tough not to,” he said. “We had it extremely benign this afternoon, but going low is a special feeling.
“To be second bottom after the first round was the worst day I’ve had, but I had a pint of Guinness and was world was OK again.”
Lowry chipped in for birdie on the first and for eagle at the long sixth as he turned in a six under 31 – two worse than McDowell, but brilliant nonetheless – and even though both had a bogey coming home the birdies kept flowing as well.
Lawrie, who currently drives a Range Rover and may well opt for a cash alternative rather than the “beautiful” car he won, reckons he is a better ball striker now than when he won The Open 10 years ago.
“But my short game was better then that it is now,” added the Aberdeen 40-year-old. When you hole-in-one, of course, you do not need a short game.
England’s Nick Dougherty, Frenchman Thomas Levet and Finn Roope Kakko are in joint fifth on 11 under, while Ryder Cup team-mates Lee Westwood and Oliver Wilson are only one further back.
After two successive missed cuts Colin Montgomerie is out of it either. A 65 lifted the Ryder Cup captain to nine under and the fact that he beat playing partner Rory McIlroy by two meant he took an extra boost in confidence.
As for Harrington, he was among the unlucky ones out in the worst of the weather and the saving grace of the day for him was that he had halted a run of 10 successive rounds without breaking par.
Daly missed by three, two early double bogeys proving too big a setback from which to recover.
The third round leaders in The 3 Irish Open at County Louth will be teeing off at 9.15am on Saturday because of the forecast for strong winds later in the day.
And spectators are also advised that, as was the case on Friday following heavy rain, all public car parks are closed in Baltray and instead traffic will be diverted to parking near Drogheda from where a free shuttle bus system will operate. The same will apply on Sunday.
With the 73 survivors being sent off in threeballs off the first and 10th tees, play starts on Saturday at 7.15am.
All the second round scores & totals in the European Tour The 3 Irish Open, County Louth GC, Baltray, Drogheda, Ireland.
(Gbr & Irl unless stated, par 72):

129 Shane Lowry 67 62
131 Robert Rock 66 65, Jamie Donaldson 66 65
132 Paul Lawrie 66 66
133 Roope Kakko (Fin) 66 67, Nick Dougherty 66 67, Thomas Levet (Fra) 67 66
134 Soren Kjeldsen (Den) 67 67, Oliver Wilson 66 68, Lee Westwood 68 66, Johan Edfors (Swe) 64 70
135 Wil Besseling (Ned) 69 66, Gary Orr 68 67, Colin Montgomerie 70 65, Alastair Forsyth 67 68, Pablo Martin (Spa) 70 65, Jose Manuel Lara (Spa) 67 68, Andrew McLardy (Rsa) 69 66
136 Francesco Molinari (Ita) 63 73, Chris Wood 69 67, Anders Hansen (Den) 68 68, Rafael Echenique (Arg) 69 67, Lee Slattery 67 69, Marc Warren 67 69, Rafael Cabrera Bello (Spa) 67 69, Gregory Havret (Fra) 70 66
137 Shiv Kapur (Ind) 66 71, Ross Fisher 70 67, David Horsey 70 67, Marcel Siem (Ger) 69 68, Louis Oosthuizen (Rsa) 68 69, Raphael Jacquelin (Fra) 71 66, Rory McIlroy 69 68, David Drysdale 69 68, Stephen Dodd 70 67, Julien Clement (Swi) 67 70
138 Robert Jan Derksen (Ned) 69 69, Michael Lorenzo-Vera (Fra) 69 69, Steve Webster 70 68, Graeme McDowell 77 61, Pablo Larrazabal (Spa) 68 70, Jose-Maria Olazabal (Spa) 71 67, Thomas Bjorn (Den) 71 67, Sam Little 72 66
139 Richard Bland 71 68, Charl Schwartzel (Rsa) 72 67, Paul Waring 72 67, Soren Hansen (Den) 71 68, Maarten Lafeber (Ned) 69 70, Simon Dyson 71 68, Darren Clarke 71 68, Graeme Storm 70 69, Thongchai Jaidee (Tha) 69 70, Gary Lockerbie 69 70, Brett Rumford (Aus) 73 66, Gary Murphy 70 69, Niclas Fasth (Swe) 71 68, Pedro Figueiredo (Por) 72 67, Emanuele Canonica (Ita) 69 70, Paul McGinley 71 68
140 David Carter 71 69, Patrik Sjoland (Swe) 73 67, Damien McGrane 69 71, Martin Erlandsson (Swe) 68 72, Jarmo Sandelin (Swe) 70 70, Shiv Shankar Prasad Chowrasia (Ind) 74 66, Mads Vibe-