Dream come true as Lowry leads Irish Open

Amateur ace Shane Lowry was pinching himself after he scorched into a shock two-shot lead at the 3 Irish Open with an amazing 10-under par 62.

On another record breaking day, the son of Offaly football legend Brendan Lowry smashed the record books to smithereens as he set the lowest halfway total in the history of the tournament at 15-under par.

Vicious morning squalls turned car parks into mud baths and sent morning starters Padraig Harrington and John Daly crashing out as the rain turned to sunshine and the afternoon wave took the cut from one-under to record low of four-under.

And there was a new star at the top of the pile as Lowry, 22, edged two shots in front of England’s Robert Rock and Welshman Jamie Donaldson and set his sights on an amazing victory.

After firing an eagle, nine birdies and just one bogey to barge his way in front, burly Lowry said: “What an unbelievable day. I’ll never forget this day as long as I live.

“It’s like a dream really, the way I putted. When do I wake up? It’s a unbelievable feeling to be leading by two shots over a field like this. I didn’t expect it coming into the tournament, but I expected to do well.”

Lowry got into the event as Ireland’s top amateur but the plus five handicapper is now dreaming of matching New Zealander Danny Lee, who captured the Johnnie Walker Classic as an amateur in February.

Setting his sights on the ultimate prize, he said: “It’s hard not to think that way to be honest. And anyone that says don’t look at the scoreboards, it’s hard not to look at the scoreboards out there.

“There’s that many of them and when you see your name up there you obviously think you can win.

“I’m just going to go out there and try and play golf at the weekend. And see how it goes from there. If I won it would open up all new doors for me, but I’m just going to go out and do the best I can.

"I was looking at (Sky Sport's) Golf Night a couple of weeks ago, and Danny Willett said he thinks the level of top amateur golf and professional golf is not too much different.

"I've seen loads of guys from the amateur scene over the last couple of years, Rory, Chris Wood, Danny Lee obviously, they have all done really well for themselves. Obviously it gives you inspiration in trying to think I'm good enough to play."

Fearing gale force winds, the tournament organisers moved the tees forward in the morning but the rain and wind disappeared after lunch and the afternoon starters tore the County Louth links to shreds with the cut falling at a record Irish Open low of four under par.

And like new course record holder Graeme McDowell, Lowry took full advantage as he raced up the leaderboard with a display that even a veteran would be proud to call his own. 

Even McDowell, who shot an 11 under par 61, said: "My hat's off to him."

Considered a certainty to make his Walker Cup debut in the US in September, Lowry arrived in an ‘07 Mitsubishi Colt rather than a courtesy car but started like a Ferrari when he chipped in for a birdie at the first, birdied the third and the fourth and then chipped in again for an eagle three at the par-five sixth to get to nine under for the tournament.

A gap-wedge to 10 feet gave him another birdie at the ninth as he turned in an amazing six under 31.

But he was soon tied for the lead with 1999 Open champion Paul Lawrie on 12 under par when he wedged to six feet at the 10th.

Lawrie had holed a six iron from 198 yards for an ace at the par three 17th to win a Audi Carbriolet worth €60,000 though he has the option to take €40,000 in cash.

And Lowry confessed that he was determined to take see his name at the top of the leaderboard just once on a day that will live long in the memory of Irish golf fans.

He said: “I knew when I had the six footer on the 10th that it was to go tied with the leader. I said to myself it would be nice to be at the top of the leaderboard at least once, so I holed it.”

Bunkered greenside at the 11th, he bogeyed there but bounced back with birdies at the 12th, 14th, 15th and 18th to card a sensational 62 - the lowest round by a amateur on the European Tour since German Sven Struver 20 years ago.

His joy contrasted with the anger of several senior players who were fuming that tees had been pushed forward on seven holes, reducing the course by over 215 yards to just 6,848 yards. From the members tees is measures just 6,716 yards.

But Tournament Director David Probyn defended a decision made a 6.15 am, when heavy rain and 20 mph east winds looked set to cause severe disruption.

Probyn said: “At that time of day I can assure you that it was the right decision to make.

“Given the conditions we have now they are undoubtedly they are excessive. But that wasn't the forecast we had at the time. If you take the conditions we had this morning, we moved the first hole up 35 yards and guys were hitting driver - driver into the rain and not sniffing the greens at 20 mph. That's the reason I took the decision and I am quite happy with that.

"We moved the first hole up 35 yards and guys were hitting two drivers into the rain and not sniffing the green when the wind was at 20 mph.  At the fourth, the first thing we had was a complaint that they couldn't reach the fairway, which is just 200 yards away."