Lowry and McDowell surge impressively to the top at QBE Shootout

Lowry and McDowell surge impressively to the top at QBE Shootout

There are no greensomes in the Ryder Cup but Shane Lowry and Graeme McDowell showed European skipper Thomas Bjorn that they are a twosome to be feared after they overcame tough conditions to grab a share of the lead in the QBE Shootout in Florida.

World Cup partners in Australia last year, the former stablemates carded a, best-of-the-day, eight-under-par 64 in breezy conditions at Tiburón Golf Club in Naples to keep alive their hopes of becoming the first non-American team to win the 54-hole season-ending team event since Australians Greg Norman and Steve Elkington in 1998.


They share the lead on 18-under par in the 12-team event with overnight leaders Steve Stricker and Sean O’Hair, who signed for a 69, two shots clear of LPGA Tour star Lexi Thompson and Tony Finau, who shot a fine 66.

Five shots behind Stricker and O’Hair following Friday's scramble, Lowry and McDowell eagled the par-five first and birdied the second before picking up further shots at the seventh and eighth in the "modified alternate shot" format that saw the players choose the best of their tee shots before playing alternate shots from there.

After another birdie at the 10th, McDowell holed an 18 footer from just off the 13th green to catapult them in front and, they kept their momentum going with a par-five at the 14th, where McDowell hit a stunning bunker shot close after Lowry had left him short-sided and semi-plugged in three.

"My number one thought was, 'Just get this out, don't leave this in there,'" McDowell said with a grin. "And my short game coach, Pete Cowen, was walking around. That's kind of what he showed me and I thought I'd better put on a show for him. So it came out kind of nice."

Lowry then hit a wedge stone dead at the 15th to keep them at the top, and while they were overtaken briefly when Stricker and O’Hair birdied the 13th, 14th and 15th, the Americans bogeyed the par-five 17th to fall back into a share of the lead.

Just five shots separate the top nine teams in the 12-team event heading into Sunday's fourballs, but Lowry is pleased they are in with a shout.

"We said coming into the week it would be nice to go for dinner on Saturday night with a chance of doing something on Sunday, and that's what we have," said world 62 Lowry, who has played his way back to top form over the past three months after a difficult 12-month period following his US Open runner-up finish at Oakmont.

"It's a fun week here, and we are having a nice time. It is obviously a different format. We don't get to play it that much. It's nice.

"Hopefully it will be a good day tomorrow, and the weather is a little better, and hopefully we can make some birdies and give ourselves a chance."

McDowell could not have been more pleased with their score on a tough day even if he was surprised that the TV commentators gave them a hard time for wearing matching outfits - courtesy of McDowell's clothing line.

"We wore unis, absolutely," McDowell said. "I think we were getting ripped on the broadcast apparently for it and I don't understand why.

"I think we're trying to get into the spirit of the competition. You know, I played with Poults here in like '09 and '10 and we did unis then and I've did it every year since. I figured a lot of teams used to do it, but apparently, they're not digging on us. Whatever."

Lowry was also delighted with their performance and he's looking forward to play more events in the US next year after opting to rent a house with his family in Palm Beach Gardens from January

"I have my card over here. My exemption is up next year, so I've really got to go and keep my card now and try and do as well as I can," Lowry said.

"The last two years I've been travelling back and forth and I've played 15 events both years maybe, maybe 16 one year. Guys out here play 25, 30 events, and to try to compete against those guys in 15 events, I don't think it's doable — hence the reason for playing more over here.

"I'm hoping I can play 20 next year, maybe even one or two more. But yeah, that's my plan for next year and I'm really looking forward to it. I love it over here, I love the PGA TOUR, I'm looking forward to next year."

Both me would love to finish the year with a win, even if it means sharing the glory.

"Shane mentioned outside earlier, we both haven't won this season," McDowell said. "You know, a win's a win. We'd dearly love to hold a trophy tomorrow night. But this format is incredibly volatile tomorrow with best ball.

"You can both go out there and shoot 68 together and only shoot 67, or you can both shoot 68 and shoot 64. It's just kind of one of those funky formats.

"So we've just got to go and put our head down tomorrow and try to give ourselves two looks at everything if we can and see what happens."