Lowry still waiting to book Augusta ticket
Shane Lowry. Photo by Montana Pritchard/PGA of America

Shane Lowry. Photo by Montana Pritchard/PGA of America

Shane Lowry inched closer to Augusta with a hard-fought half with Masters champions Patrick Reed in the WGC Dell Technologies Match Play Championship in Texas.

But while the calculations indicate that the world number 48 should remain inside world's top 50 after Sunday's qualification cut-off, he's not mathematically safe just yet.

He had reason to smile when he holed his 71-yard approach for an eagle two at the 13th to get back to one down after another tough day at Austin Country Club. 

But he found water and made a double-bogey six at the 14th to go two down before salvaging a half with birdies the 15th and 18th. 

Lowry and Reed are now out with just half a point from two matches after Sergio Garcia beat Andrew Putnam 5&4 to claim his second win.

But Lowry knows a win over Putnam today will likely be enough to ensure he’s heading up Magnolia Lane on Monday week.

Currently projected to rise one spot to 47th, he could be passed by South African Justin Harding, Jim Furyk and even Sunghjae Im, who needs a solo second place finish in the Dominican Republic to make the top 50.

Abraham Ancer, who must reach the last 16 in Austin, is also still alive in his bid to make the top 50 while Lee Westwood, who must finish fourth at the Match Play, is also a threat.

Rory McIlroy has no such worries after his combination of power and clutch putting yielded a 3&2 win over Harding, keeping him on track for back-to-back wins ahead of the Masters.

The Holywood star (29) needs only avoid defeat to the already eliminated Matthew Fitzpatrick, who lost 2&1 to Luke List, to secure his place in the last 16.

“I feel good,” said McIlroy, who had to make three birdies in a row from the fifth for halves and after turning all square as Harding birdied the ninth, eagled the 12th to take the lead and never relinquished it.

“If anything I played a little bit better than I did yesterday," McIlroy said. "Justin put up a really good fight. He’s a really good player. I can see why he’s done so well to start this year off and got himself into the top 50 in the world.”

Harding had chances to get back to all square but failed to take advantage of McIlroy's mistakes at the 13th and 14th and the Northern Ireland star shut the door with crucial birdies at the 15th and par-five 16th.

“I had to play well and make one or two birdies just to hang in there on the front nine, and then he made a few mistakes on 13 and 14th and two birdies on 15 and 16 were enough,” said McIlroy.

“I just play the golf course more than anything else and then when you are called on to hit key shots, if he’s hit hit it in close, or you need to follow him in or hole a putt on top of him, that’s when you play the man. But for the most part, you just need to play solid golf. That takes care of most things.”

McIlroy could still play Tiger Woods in the last 16 tomorrow, but the 14-time major winner fell 2 and 1 to Brandt Snedeker and needs to beat Patrick Cantlay and hope Aaron Wise can halt Snedeker if he’s to progress.

Defending champion Bubba Watson will be going home today after losing 2&1 to Billy Horschel, but Jim Furyk (48) looks Masters-bound after he beat Phil Mickelson 1-up and now faces Henrik Stenson for a place in the last 16.

Francesco Molinari’s love affair with match play golf continued as the Italian cruised to a second successive victory in the group stages, beating his fellow 2018 Ryder Cup team-mate Thorbjørn Olesen 4&3.

The reigning Race to Dubai Champion has won more holes than any other player this week after the opening two days of play in Texas, with 15, while he is the only player to have won both of his matches prior to the 16th hole.

Including his incredible 100 per cent record at The Ryder Cup last September, Molinari has now won seven consecutive match play encounters in which he has played, and he faces Webb Simpson in Round Three hoping to seal his passage to the weekend knockout stages.

Henrik Stenson, meanwhile, will face off with the USA’s 2020 Ryder Cup Captain Furyk in a winner-takes-all clash, with both players having won their opening two matches.

Lucas Bjerregaard, Branden Grace, Matt Kuchar, Marc Leishman, Li Haotong and McIlroy all hold the outright lead in their respective groups heading into day three.

Among those players still in with a shout of qualifying should they win their final group match include European Tour members Kiradech Aphibarnrat, Paul Casey, Bryson DeChambeau, Tony Finau, Billy Horschel, Tommy Fleetwood, Tyrrell Hatton, Alex Noren, Olesen, Louis Oosthuizen, Ian Poulter, Jon Rahm, Xander Schauffele and Matt Wallace.

World number one Dustin Johnson lost one up to Branden Grace who made a 38-foot birdie putt at the 17th and watched the American mis a 17-foot birdie putt at the last.

"It's always nice to beat the number one player in the world," said Grace, who can do no worse than a playoff with Johnson - who must beat Japan's Hideki Matsuyama and have Grace lose to American Chez Reavie to force it.

China's Li Haotong edged US third seed Brooks Koepka 1-up to eliminate the reigning US Open and PGA champion.

Francesco Molinari

“It was somewhat similar to yesterday - very good start the first six, eight holes and tried to control his comebacks. I have a lot of respect for Thorbjørn as a player, so I knew it was going not be an easy match. He fought hard today and obviously played some solid golf. So hopefully more to come the next few days.”

Henrik Stenson

“I played okay. It's difficult out there. You've got a course where the standard is quite high. It's undulated greens and it's blowing a good two-club wind. It's difficult to get it right. A lot of times with the shorter clubs it's probably even harder to get the yardages right than with some longer irons.

“It was difficult conditions. I played pretty solid and didn't give much for free, even though I tried on one or two occasions. I kept it together nicely, and he gave me one or two easy holes, and other than that I thought I had it under control most of the day.”

Sergio Garcia

“Pretty much everything went well today. I think I missed maybe one green in these conditions, which were quite tough - a little wind, gusty. I drove the ball very, very well and it my irons really well. I gave myself a lot of birdie opportunities.

“I put pressure on him every single hole. And after I got in front - other than that little bogey on 13, I hit a good second shot just a little too hard, I didn't give him anything. I kept putting pressure on him.”

Branden Grace

“This is fun. Obviously I wish there were more of these events in a year, even if there's just one more. But I think it's tricky around a golf course like this because it's elevated. There's a lot of wind. It's open.

“You still have to hit it in the fairways, you can't always just play the golf course and try and make birdies. You have to keep your eye on what your opponent is doing, and feed off that and make decisions according to that.

“It's always nice to beat the Number One player in the world. I knew it was going to be a lot of solid golf. And he obviously made a couple of birdies here and there, obviously with the power that he can get on the golf ball.”

Li Haotong

“It's amazing to win. Today he didn't really give me many holes. It was a tough match against a tough guy to beat. I mean, I've been in some bad positions today, but I just felt I stayed patient. I did that very well. If I lose a hole it doesn't matter, keep my head up.

“Even when I won 15 and 16 and 17, I still felt like the worst is I'm going to be half, but it's better than I thought.”

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