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Lowry closer to Tucson as Mickelson officially pulls out

Trevor Fisher Jnr. Picture by Getty ImagesShane Lowry can start checking flights to Tucson for the WGC-Accenture Match Play after Phil Mickelson confirmed he’ll be skipping the event and Danny Willett and Kristoffer Broberg missed the cut in the Joburg Open.

With Mickelson explaining in California on Thursday night that the Match Play is off his radar as it clashes with his children’s spring break, Lowry’s chances of making the top 64 in the world who qualify improved further when Willett (who needed to win) and Broberg (top two) failed to make the weekend in South Africa.

Even if Richard Sterne wins the Joburg Open - he’s tied for the lead with Trevor Fisher Jnr at halfway - and moves to around 56th in the world, Lowry will be inside the top 64 available players in next Monday’s updated world rankings, providing results don’t go against him in the Pebble Beach Pro-Am.

As things stand, just a handful of the 24 players who have a mathematical chance of breaking into the top 64 with a big week in California are close to achieving their targets.

Brendon de Jonge who needs to be sixth or better, was tied for 18th heading into the second round while Seung-Yul Noh (Win), Matt Every (Win) and Ted Potter Jnr (Win) where tied for third.

Even if one of them pulls it off, the trend in recent years shows that it’s highly likely that another player will drop out of the field for the first WGC event of the season before the draw is made, further improving Lowry’s chances of a meeting with Rory McIlroy or Tiger Woods in the opening round.

If Sterne wins in South Africa, he could meet the likes of Bubba Watson, Jason Dufner or Ian Poulter in the desert, which is only marginally less intimidating than a clash with McIlroy or Woods.

But if he continues to produce the kind of golf that saw him finish second to Stephen Gallacher in Dubai last week and storm to the joint lowest 36-hole total in the history of the Joburg Open at Royal Johannesburg & Kensington Golf Club, he will fear nobody.

After Fisher Junior posted a superb, nine under 62 on the East Course to set the clubhouse target at 15 under par, Sterne added a seven under 65 on the tough West Course to his opening 63 to join his compatriot at the top, three shots clear of George Coetzee.

Sterne has yet to drop a shot all week and he’s looking forward to adding to his 2008 victory in the event despite the fact that world No 18 and two-time Joburg Open champion Charl Schwartzel is lurking just five behind after a 65 on the West Course.

“I did the right things and putted well,” said Sterne. “It’s nice to not be behind going into the weekend.

“But it won’t be easy over the weekend. The players that are five or six back can catch us, so it’s a long way from over.”

South Africans occupy five of the top six places with Schwartzel, who is making his first start of the season, tied for fourth with compatriot Keith Horne and Chile’s Felipe Aguilar.

Coetzee’s quest for a debut European Tour victory has included 21 top ten finishes, but he is in contention to break his duck after signing for a round of 64 on the East Course.

Two-time Joburg Open Champion Schwartzel also moved firmly into contention with a six under par round of 65 on the West Course. The World Number 18 is playing his first tournament of 2013, having signed off 2012 with back-to-back victories by a combined margin of 23 shots.

“I’ve had five and a half weeks nothing, then I started practising a bit,” Schwartzel said of his seven-week absence. “My ball striking is good enough, I’m not putting as well as I was. Those short putts are the ones you have to make to win tournaments.”

While it’s been a good week for the local players, Ireland’s trio of challengers missed the cut.

Gareth Maybin made 10 birdies in his two rounds, including seven in a second round 66 on the West Course.

But he also had two double bogeys and a bogey in his opening 74 and a double bogey five at the 13th in the second round proved crucial as he missed the four under par cut by a stroke.

Damien McGrane had opened with a 66 on the West but his putter went cold on the tougher East Course and he made just one birdie against two double bogeys in a three over 75 to miss out by two.

Waterville’s David Higgins was always facing an uphill battle after a disappointing opening 71 in his first start since winning back his card at the Q-School.

While he opened with an eagle three on the East, he dropped four shots in seven holes in the middle of his round before picking up his lone birdie of the day at the par-five 18th for a 73 to finish five shots outside the cut one over.

As for Mickelson, he’s never been a fan of the course at Dove Mountain, though he didn’t mention that fact when making his excuses in California.

“The week of the WGC Accenture Match Play is the week of my kids’ spring break and unfortunately that week comes at same as the Match Play this year,” said the American, who will play his fifth event in a row in Los Angeles next week.

“I am by no means making a statement about the tournament.  I love the tournament.  It’s one of my favorite of the year.  I love being in Tucson.  It’s where I won my first PGA TOUR event but my kids are out of school that week and we are taking a family trip.”

Joburg Open, after 36 holes (SA Inless stated)

128 - Trevor Fisher Jnr 66 62, Richard Sterne 63 65

131 - George Coetzee 67 64

133 - Charl Schwartzel 68 65, Keith Horne 67 66, Felipe Aguilar (CHL) 67 66

134 - Tommy Fleetwood (ENG) 68 66, Peter Uihlein (USA) 65 69, Jaco Van Zyl 66 68, Jose Manuel Lara (ESP) 69 65

135 - MJ Daffue 65 70, Maximilian Kieffer (GER) 63 72, David Drysdale (SCO) 68 67, Ricardo Santos (POR) 70 65, Richard Finch (ENG) 67 68, Bryce Easton 65 70, Dean Burmester 67 68, Lorenzo Gagli (ITA) 67 68, Tyrone Mordt 65 70

136 - Tjaart van der Walt 67 69, Darren Fichardt 67 69, Ricardo Gonzalez (ARG) 70 66, Oliver Fisher (ENG) 68 68, Tyrone Ferreira 66 70, Oliver Bekker 68 68, James Kingston 66 70, Bjorn Akesson (SWE) 69 67, Joakim Lagergren (SWE) 65 71

137 - Merrick Bremner 68 69, Tom Lewis (ENG) 72 65, Jacques Blaauw 70 67, Thomas Aiken 67 70, Ockie Strydom 66 71, Ryan Cairns (ZIM) 67 70, Espen Kofstad (NOR) 66 71, James Kamte 70 67, George Murray (SCO) 71 66, Hennie Otto 70 67, Jake Redman 66 71, Joshua Cunliffe 67 70

138 - Brandon Pieters 69 69, Gary Boyd (ENG) 67 71, Garth Mulroy 70 68, Lasse Jensen(DEN) 68 70, Andy Sullivan (ENG) 68 70, Justin Walters 71 67, Graeme Storm (ENG) 76 62, Danie van Tonder 68 70, Alessandro Tadini (ITA) 67 71, Paul Waring (ENG) 71 67, Adilson Da Silva (BRA) 66 72, Jbe’ Kruger 68 70, Steve Webster (ENG) 71 67, David Horsey (ENG) 66 72

139 - Scott Henry (SCO) 69 70, Gregory Havret (FRA) 70 69, Phillip Price (WAL) 68 71, Alexandre Kaleka (FRA) 66 73, Jaco Ahlers 71 68, Justin Harding 69 70, Bradford Vaughan 69 70, Allan Versfeld 66 73, Peter Hedblom (SWE) 72 67, Gary Lockerbie (ENG) 70 69, Lee Slattery (ENG) 67 72, Ulrich van den Berg 71 68, PH McIntyre 72 67, Michael Hollick 70 69, Robert-Jan Derksen (NED) 69 70

CUT

140 - Emiliano Grillo (ARG) 71 69, Anthony Snobeck (FRA) 68 72, Marc Warren (SCO) 71 69, Titch Moore 69 71, Ignacio Garrido (ESP) 67 73, Doug McGuigan 73 67, Jorge Campillo (ESP) 69 71, Chris Swanepoel 72 68, Mikko Korhonen (FIN) 69 71, Alexander Levy (FRA) 69 71, Ross McGowan (ENG) 67 73, Gareth Maybin (NIR) 74 66, Matthew Zions (AUS) 69 71, Tyrone van Aswegen 69 71, John Parry (ENG) 69 71, Gregory Bourdy (FRA) 70 70, Christiaan Basson 68 72, Niclas Fasth (SWE) 67 73, Simon Wakefield (ENG) 70 70, Mikael Lundberg(SWE) 69 71, Derik Ferreira 71 69, Attie Schwartzel 68 72, Hendrik Buhrmann 70 70, Ross Wellington 71 69

141 - Daniel Brooks (ENG) 74 67, Ryan Tipping 72 69, James Morrison (ENG) 74 67, Shaun Norris 71 70, Craig Lee (SCO) 73 68, Matthew Southgate (ENG) 70 71, Louis de Jager 71 70, Damien McGrane (IRL) 66 75, Lyle Rowe 69 72, Neil Schietekat 71 70, Brooks Koepka (USA) 71 70, Joel Sjoholm (SWE) 70 71, Jean Hugo 69 72

142 - Matthew Nixon (ENG) 70 72, Vaughn Groenewald 73 69, Jamie Elson (ENG) 68 74, Matthew Carvell 69 73, Branden Grace 72 70, Charl Coetzee 71 71, Seve Benson (ENG) 69 73, Desvonde Botes 71 71, Chris Paisley (ENG) 74 68, Phillip Archer (ENG) 72 70, Alex Haindl 70 72, Michiel Bothma 72 70, Keenan Davidse 75 67, Callum Macaulay (SCO) 70 72, Anthony Michael 72 70, JB Hansen (DEN) 69 73

143 - Teboho Sefatsa 70 73, Wallie Coetsee 69 74, Danny Willett (ENG) 70 73, Fabrizio Zanotti (PAR) 72 71, Colin Nel 72 71, Peter Whiteford(SCO) 72 71, Andreas Harto (DEN) 70 73, Dawie Van der Walt 74 69, Alan McLean (SCO) 74 69, Jared Harvey 71 72, Kristoffer Broberg (SWE) 71 72, JJ Senekal 72 71, Thabo Maseko 69 74, Ruan de Smidt 71 72, Peter Karmis 69 74, Divan van den Heever 69 74, Andrew Marshall (ENG) 73 70, Sam Little (ENG) 72 71

144 - Divan Gerber 71 73, Mark Foster (ENG) 69 75, Soren Kjeldsen (DEN) 73 71, Mark Tullo (CHI) 70 74, Johan du Buisson 72 72, S S P Chowrasia (IND) 71 73, Andrew Georgiou 71 73, Chris Lloyd (ENG) 75 69, Carlos Del Moral (ESP) 75 69, Eddie Pepperell (ENG) 74 70, Scott Arnold (AUS) 71 73, David Higgins (IRL) 71 73, Christopher Doak (SCO) 73 71, Matteo Delpodio (ITA) 73 71, Christian Cevaer (FRA) 71 73

145 - Derick Petersen 70 75, Eduardo de la Riva (ESP) 76 69, Morne Buys 75 70, Gary Stal (FRA) 74 71, Dean O’Riley 74 71, Markus Brier (AUT) 73 72, Neil Cheetham (ENG) 71 74, Martin Wiegele (AUT) 73 72, Andrew Curlewis 70 75

146 - Morten Orum Madsen (DEN) 74 72, Warren Abery 74 72, Jonathan Raphunga 76 70, Robert Rock (ENG) 71 75, Albert Pistorius 73 73, Jake Roos 73 73, David Hewan 74 72

147 - Alastair Forsyth (SCO) 77 70, Moritz Lampert (GER) 73 74, Rhys Davies (WAL) 71 76, Francesco Laporta (ITA) 72 75, Brandon Detweiler (USA) 78 69, Andrew Dodt (AUS) 72 75, Rikard Karlberg (SWE) 76 71, Michael Gligic (CAN) 72 75, Peter Erofejeff (FIN) 74 73

148 - Musiwalo Nethunzwi 74 74, Michael Jonzon (SWE) 75 73, Sipho Bujela 72 76, Heinrich Bruiners 76 72, Johan de Beer 70 78, Thabang Simon 72 76, Mark Murless 76 72, Matthew Baldwin (ENG) 72 76, Chris Gane (ENG) 76 72

149 - Riekus Nortje 78 71, Daniel Greene 74 75

150 - Estanislao Goya (ARG) 77 73, Grant Muller 75 75, Daniel Gaunt (AUS) 74 76, Jean-Paul Strydom 75 75, Richard McEvoy (ENG) 80 70, Maarten Lafeber (NED) 75 75

152 - Omar Sandys 70 82, Mark Williams 77 75, Theunis Spangenberg 74 78, Wayne Westner 77 75, James Busby (ENG) 72 80

153 - Steven Ferreira 77 76, Ryan Strauss 74 79

154 - Yubin Jung 76 78, Guillaume Cambis (FRA) 70 84, JG Claassen 75 79

156 - Makgetha Mazibuko 77 79

157 - Nick Dougherty (ENG) 79 78

164 - Oscar Floren (SWE) 81 83