Not even a collision with a tree in the middle of his back nine could stop Shane Lowry’s dogged pursuit of Ian Poulter in the weather-delayed second round of the Turkish Airlines Open by the Ministry of Youth and Sports.
The 27-year old’s short game was at its silky, smooth best as he played his first five holes in five under and found himself just six behind the Englishman with four holes to go when play was halted and finally aborted for the day as thunderstorms hit the Montgomerie Maxx Royal near Antalya.
Lowry will resume on Saturday morning facing a two and a half foot birdie putt at the driveable 15th and if he holes it he will move up to tied for fifth in an event where a Top-6 finish could guarantee him a place in the world’s Top 50 at the end of the season and a Masters debut next April.
The Offaly man’s refined short game should prove to be a useful weapon at Augusta National and it certainly helped him maintain his position after a lightning start to his second round catapulted him up the leaderboard in the penultimate event of the European Tour's Final Series.
Tied for 34th starting the day, the world No. 51 eagled the par-five first thanks to a five-wood to the back fringe and a 15 foot putt to get to four under.
He then made the first of a series of great par saves at the second and birdied the third and fourth thanks to deft wedge play before hitting a four-iron to 12 feet at the fifth and rolling in the putt to go five under for the day.
“I was flying,” Lowry said. “I hit a nine iron straight at flag on the next and missed it.
“i think the stretch from the fifth to the ninth is probably the toughest stretch on the course, but I’ve played those holes well over past two days, just continued on from yesterday, fought back well and went out there once eagled first I was away with it.
“Considering I was three over par after eight holes yesterday I’m delighted to have clawed my way back into the event so that I’m now 10 under par in my last 24 holes.
“So I am right where I want to be.”
Distracted on the tee at the ninth, he pulled his tee shot into the rough, came up just short with his second but hit a lazy, low-spinning recovery from the rough just above the lake to a foot and tapped in to turn in 30.
He would have fancied picking up another shot at the 362-yard 10th but ran just into the rough with his tee shot and saw his wedge tail off and slide off the green to the left, finishing in the collection area.
Faced with a tricky uphill pitch from a sandy area, he hit a low skimmer to within a few feet and rolled it in for par.
The wind started to get up after that but Lowry, who is 10 under par for his last 24 holes having been three over after four on Thursday, gave little away.
As overnight leader Miguel Angel Jiménez started to unravel in the breeze and slipped back to one over for his round with four to play, Lowry missed a good chance for birdie at the par-five 11th but after holing an eight footer for par a the tough 12th, he made amends in spectacular fashion at the par-five 13th.
Playing downwind, his drive caught a huge pine in the middle of the fairway but he hit a stellar 265-yard three-hybrid to 25 feet and two putted for birdie.
Smiling, Lowry said: “My drive hit the tree - whatever that was doing there -but I hit a three hybrid and made sure I got up in air.
“I was praying i would two putt it because you could hit it a foot too hard and it (would catch the slope) and it was gone 20 feet away.”
He dropped a shot at the next, the par-three 14th where he missed the green right and failed with a four and a half footer - “I took too long over it” — after another delightful pitch.
A great drive to the front edge of the 337-yard 15th saw him set up a birdie with another deft chip but he has work to do to catch leader Poulter, who has been sensational on the par-fives.
The world No 40 might have bogeyed the tough, par-four 12th in both rounds (he three putted this time) but he has played the nine par-fives he has encountered so far in nine under par, racking up an eagle, seven birdies and just one par.
Five under for his second round with four holes to play, he leads by three shots from Brendon de Jonge of Zimbabwe on 13 under par with Wade ORmsby and Brooks Koepka tied for third on nine under with a handful of holes to go.
“To be on the top of the leaderboard is always nice,” said Poulter, who is 27 under par for his last five rounds at the Montgomerie Maxx Royal. “It would have been nice to finish the round off, but I guess it wasn't meant to be today.
“We'll have to wait this one out, see what the weather is going to be like. It's supposed to be pretty bad tonight and first thing in the morning. Hopefully we can get round two finished at some stage tomorrow and obviously get cracking on round three.
“The weather wasn't like this for the first 12 holes. We had it pretty good. So therefore we could take advantage of some of the holes out there, which is exactly what I did.
“Then all of a sudden we had a wind switch around 11, and it started to gust and that changes the golf course dramatically.
“I think all of us were hoping the electricity was going to come in pretty quickly, because I don't think any of us wanted to be on this golf course in a 30-mile-an-hour wind. It's not conducive.”
The second round will resume at 8am, with the third round scheduled to begin at 9.15am and Tournament Director, Miguel Vidaor, is confident they can play 72 holes.
“We knew that there was bad weather coming today, that’s why we moved the tee times forward by an hour and 15 minutes, which was as much as we could given the daylight available,” he said.
“After watching that storm system coming through, the weatherman thought we were going to get a break of about an hour and 45 minutes until the next one. But he did say there was a chance, because of instability in the air, there would be other thunderstorms popping up. As we went for the restart at 2.40pm, just as the players were warming up on the range, we had another cell just popping up southeast of us heading towards us.
“So we have had to call it for the day and come back tomorrow and restart at 8am. Playing 72 holes is still very much achievable. The players are going to play in the same groupings again in round three, which means we are going to gain a lot of time.
“All being well, we are looking at the last group going off in round three just after 11am tomorrow, which means we are going to be back on track finishing round three just after 4.00pm tomorrow, which then gives us the option to redraw for the final round on Sunday.”
Darren Clarke was two under par for his second round and up to tied 56th on one over after his first round 75 while Michael Hoey was 75th on 14 over after making two birdies, two bogeys and two double bogeys in his first 14 holes.