AUGUSTA, Ga. (Reuters) – Shane Lowry may not have a great track record at the Masters but the former British Open champion combined solid approach play and great putting in windy conditions at Augusta National on Friday to vault into contention.
The Irishman, who began the day six shots back of the first-round lead, matched his career-best round at Augusta National with a four-under-par 68 to reach three under at the halfway point of the year’s first major.
Lowry will head into the weekend in a four-way share of second place and five shots back of world number one Scottie Scheffler after a day that was anything but fun for him.
“I didn’t enjoy it really much at all to be honest it was so hard out there,” said Lowry.
“It was one of my better rounds of my career, it was quite tricky out there, quite difficult and I managed to play some good golf and hole some nice putts at the right times.”
The 35-year-old Irishman is making his seventh Masters appearance this week at Augusta National, where he has missed the cut three times before and finished in a career-best share of 21st last year.
Lowry went out in the afternoon as swirling winds snaked through the Georgia pines and got off to a shaky start with a bogey at the first where he missed a five-foot putt.
But that was the only blemish on Lowry’s scorecard as he used his irons to near perfection and got hot with his putter in conditions that proved frustrating to many golfers.
“This place is hard at the best of times,” said Lowry. “When you are throwing a 20- or 30-mile-an-hour gust of wind in as well, you get down to Amen Corner, you won’t believe how hard it is down there.”
Lowry got back to even par on the day at the second hole and was in cruise control from there, adding two more birdies before the turn, including at the seventh where he stuffed his approach to five feet.
At the par-four 10th, Lowry produced one of the best shots of the day when he was 38 yards from the hole and on the other side of a greenside bunker from where he put his ball into the cup for the first of three back-nine birdies.
“Obviously kick-started the round,” Lowry said of his birdie at the 10th. “From there on I played beautiful for the rest of the round.”
Lowry, who held things together with key par saves at the 14th and 16th holes, said he prefers low-scoring conditions and with a windy forecast for the weekend is looking forward to getting back out but knows plenty of work remains.
“You’re going to need everything to go your way to be standing there getting green on Sunday,” said Lowry. “I’m where I want to be. I’m where I need to be. I’m looking forward to it.”
(Reporting by Frank Pingue in Toronto; Editing by Chris Reese)