If Saturday is moving day, Shane Lowry hit warp speed in Mallorca when he blasted a course record equalling 63 to race into contention for his first tour win as a professional in the Iberdrola Open.
Tied for 30th and 10 shots off the lead when he went to bed on Friday night, Lowry’s putting and patience finally came together on the same day as he racked up an eagle, six birdies and just one bogey in a seven under par effort.
By day’s end the 2009 Irish Open champion was tied for second with Darren Clarke, who bogeyed the last for an even par 70, and just four strokes adrift of leader Chris Woods on five under par.
“I stayed patient and I just waited for it to happen,” the 24-year old said. “I spoke to my coach last night and said, this is a funny type of course, if you stay patient and plot your way around, hopefully the birdies will come. And they did.
After birdies at the second and fourth, Lowry eagled the par-five sixth and came back from a bogey at the ninth with three birdies in a row from the 10th before picking up another shot at the 15th.
Lowry said: “I knew going out today that if I could get into red figures for the tournament I would be well placed going into Sunday and well placed for a good finish.
“That was my main goal today but after six holes I was two under for the tournament and I said, right, let’s try and push on from here. Now I am starting to challenge.”
Lowry knew he was on the cusp of putting the whole package together after coming back from a dreadful return to the tour following a wrist break with promising performances in Asia and last week’s Spanish Open.
He said: “I was up there last week and had half a chance in Korea the week before and played good in China. My putting has been letting me down but I stayed patient with it and didn’t change anything. I just worked on the simple things, as I always do.
“I felt very tired on the course on Thursday after a few early mornings in a row but I got a good rest on Thursday evening and Friday morning and felt great yesterday and today and hopefully I’ll feel good tomorrow.”
He had just 23 putts in his superb 63 and his short game has been brilliant all week with 15 scrambles from 17 attempts.
“I work on the simple things with my putting and my caddie was saying before we went out, if you hole one, they might all start to drop,” he said.
As for his wrist, he added: “My wrist is perfect thank God. I shot a few very bad scores when I came back out in Sicily, Malaga and Morocco, and my confidence was at an all time low. So I went back and got playing some golf on my weeks off and got my feel back.”
Clarke bogeyed the first and third but bounced back with birdies at the fifth and sixth and another at the 13th before a bogey at the last saw him sign for a level par 70.
As usual, he complained about his putting.
“I played really nicely again all day,” Clarke said. “I tried to cut an eight iron into the first and got a bad kick right and made bogey. And then got a bad bounce on three and made bogey there.
“After that I played really nicely all day and kept giving myself chance after chance after chance and unfortunately I had a very cold putter today.
“I was disappointed at the last because I thought I had hit a great shot all over the flag and it turned out to be the worst place I could have missed it. Misread the first putt and misread the second putt but that’s the game.”
With Wood four shots clear on nine under and looking comfortable after a 69, Clarke wonder what might happen if the wind blows.
“The forecast for tomorrow is not so good with strong winds I believe so I will go out to play as I am and hopefully the putter warms up a bit,” he said. “I kept giving myself chances and kept hitting it close enough. Just couldn’t knock the putts in.”
Asked about Lowry’s 63 and the Jose Maria Olazabal’s presence in fourth place, just five off the pace, Clarke said: “That’s a fantastic score and [Shane] has obviously played really well to do that and fair play to him. To shoot 63 out here, you know you have played some sensational golf.
“It’s always brilliant to see Chema play well. He has been through an awful lot last week and this week and it is great to see him up there on the leaderboard.”
Wood - who has two top-five Open Championship finishes under his belt and lost a play-off for the Africa Open at the start of the season - is seeking his maiden win.
“I have extended my lead by one which is good but it was pretty tough today and I thought that I played pretty well and didn’t really get the rewards I deserved,” said Wood. “A lot of my birdie chances stayed out but overall it was a good day.
“I was eager to get going and I will be the same again tomorrow. I am ready to go again now if I had to. Tomorrow could be a big day for me but I need to try and treat it like any other round of golf.”
Simon Thornton slipped to tied 10th on one under after a 72 with Damien McGrane, who played with Lowry yesterday, up to 16th after a 68 that saw him storm home in 31 thanks to birdies at the last two holes.