Shane Lowry 'really happy' after surpassing expectations to lead Abu Dhabi HSBC Championship presented by EGA at halfway stage

Irishman followed up his record-equalling opening round with a 2-under par 70 to earn a one shot lead over South African pair

ABU DHABI, UNITED ARAB EMIRATES - JANUARY 17: Shane Lowry of Ireland plays his shot from the second tee during Day Two of the Abu Dhabi HSBC Golf Championship at Abu Dhabi Golf Club on January 17, 2019 in Abu Dhabi, United Arab Emirates. (Photo by Andrew Redington/Getty Images)
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After his record-equalling feats of a day earlier, Shane Lowry expressed himself satisfied having retaining the lead in the Abu Dhabi HSBC Championship presented by EGA.

The Irishman will start the weekend at 12-under par, after following his spectacular opening round 62 with a more prosaic 70 on a testing Day 2 around the National Course.

His advantage is a slender one. Seven players were within three shots of the tournament leader at the end of the second round, with two South Africans, Louis Oosthuizen and Richard Sterne, best placed, just one shot back.

Unperturbed by the bunching behind him, Lowry was chuffed with the way he maintained focus a day after registering the equal-lowest round out of in excess of 5,000 that have been played in this tournament’s history.


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“I’m really happy with that,” said Lowry, who had to recover from a tough start on Thursday, as he bogeyed the second and third holes of his second round.

“I knew today was going to be a bit of a weird day after shooting such a low score yesterday. I just tried to go out and play like I played.

“Right from the start, I feel like I played pretty good. Some of the shots early on were pretty horrendous, but I battled back and hit some really nice shots out there. I was happy with myself.”

Lowry suggested he has already largely exceeded the expectations he had arrived with after making the trip down the E11 for this tournament.

In the lead up to this event, he had spent 12 days in a hired villa in Dubai, where he was based along with fellow Irishman Paul Dunne.

Lowry says he was regularly on the losing side during practice matches against his young compatriot. Yet, while Dunne went out of the competition prematurely, after reaching 2-over by the halfway stage, Lowry is leading.

“We practiced together and had some matches, and I didn’t actually beat him once, so wasn’t too optimistic,” Lowry said.

Oosthuizen also had to weather the frustration of a brace of bogeys before battling back to register a 68.

The South African had an eventful start to his back nine, as he was sent off track after hitting the cart path with his approach to the par-5 10th.

“I had to take a penalty all the way on one of the tee boxes on 11, made bogey, and the rhythm was a little broke there,” Oosthuizen said.

“I needed to find my feet after those two holes. I knew I was hitting it good, I just needed to dial it in, and not wander too far off with the brain.”

A further shot back from Oosthuizen and Sterne, Lee Westwood sits in fourth. His form over the first two rounds at the National Course gives further substance to his suggestion that he is a long way from winding down yet.

The 45-year-old Englishman fielded questions ahead of the tournament about his suitability for the Ryder Cup captaincy in the near future.

Westwood pointed out that, having been a recent winner on Tour – and that, too, a Rolex Series event – he still harbours justifiable ambitions about a return to the European team as a playing member.

His skills clearly remain sharp, as judged by a second round 68, which he added to the 66 he made on Day 1.

“I’ve been doing a bit of gym work through the winter, although this pot belly wouldn’t suggest that,” Westwood said.

“But I’m feeling pretty fit, as fit as a 45-year-old can be that’s been out here for 26 years. I’ve got the odd ache and pain, but feel like I’m swinging it well.

“I was keen for the season to start, and it was nice to come out and shoot a couple of good scores to kick it off in style.”