Rock admits Lowry-saurus is "tougher than Tiger"

Robert Rock will never forget the Irish crowd that cheered Shane Lowry to victory at Baltray. “That was really, really tough.” Photo: Fran Caffrey/ hero Shane Lowry insisted he fears no-one after a sensational birdie-birdie finish left him on collision course with old enemy Robert Rock in the Irish Open.

The Carton House pro raised the roof on a disappointing day for the Irish when he birdied the last two holes to go into the weekend tied for third, just two shots adrift of Englishman Rock and American Peter Uihlein.

Lowry was only a 22-year old amateur when he famously beat Rock in a play-off to take the 2009 Irish Open at Baltray.

And with Rock admitting that it was easier to beat Tiger Woods down the stretch than take on Lowry and his hordes of fans, a Baltray repeat could make up for the exit of Ireland’s big five of Rory McIlroy, Padraig Harrington, Graeme McDowell, Darren Clarke and Paul McGinley.

After a battling 70 left him on seven under, Lowry said: “With Pádraig, Rory and Graeme missing the cut and Paul as well, it’s going to be quite disappointing for the Irish crowd.  Hopefully I can give them something to cheer about the weekend.

“Robert Rock? I’ve played with Rocky quite a bit over the last few days, obviously the Irish Open I won, I beat him in a playoff.  I don’t care who it is that’s up there, as long as I’m up there.”

Lowry got off to a horror start to be two over after three holes but while he dropped two more shots he made up for it with six birdies - two of them coming late in the day at the 17th and 18th.

Lowry said: “Mentally I was very good today.  I didn’t get down on myself, just dug it out and I managed to finish birdie, birdie for 70, which I’m actually chuffed about.

“It was very, very tough out there today.  I watched quite a bit of the golf on TV this morning at my house and I was looking at the lads making birdies and then I saw it in the range and it was a 30 mile an hour wind and I’m thinking, this is not going to be easy.”

Lowry is tied for third with overnight leader Oscar Floren (71), Dutchman Joost Luiten (70), former champion Jose Maria Olazabal (69) and Portugal’s Ricardo Santos (66).

But while joint leader Rock hit an eagle and four birdies in an error free 66 to match Uihlein  on nine under, Lowry’s Baltray victim doesn’t fancy another battle with the Clara man.

Bracing himself for another tough weekend, Rock said: “I’ll never forget that day playing with Shane.  That was really, really tough.  

“That was probably harder almost than beating Tiger, because I did feel like I had some people on my side in Abu Dhabi.  

“At Baltray I don’t even think there was one.”

Joint leader Uihlein is not afraid to win in the wind after going to college in Oklahoma and taking his maiden European Tour win in breezy Madeira six weeks ago.

The American said: “I spent three and a half years in Oklahoma where we would play in a tornado.  

“So it was a good experience there, and I feel like in the wind, you don’t have to be perfect, which is what I kind of struggle with.

“It’s my first time here and it’s fantastic.  The Irish fans live up to the reputation of being very knowledgeable and supportive, so it’s been good.”