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Clarke and Lowry ready for a showdown

Two Irishmen, who ply their trade at opposite ends of the European Tour rainbow, seem destined for a fascinating showdown in New Delhi this weekend.

Ryder Cup veteran Darren Clarke (41) and Tour rookie Shane Lowry (22) both swept into contention at The Avantha Masters with superlative second-round 66s at The DLF Golf and Country Club.

They shared 12th place on seven-under-par with three others as a hailstorm, the first seen in this region for 20 years, brought proceedings to an abrupt conclusion yesterday afternoon with three dozen players on the course.

Though still three shots shy of English stalwart Barry Lane's clubhouse lead, Clarke and Lowry hit such a rich vein of form and confidence in the second round, thatboth must fancy their chances of winning the competition over the final 36 holes.

Lowry, who stunned world golf by winning last May's Irish Open as an amateur, proved last week's missed cut in Dubai was no more than a form blip as he polished off six birdies in the final 12 holes of his bogey-free second round.

The Clara champion has come a long, long way in eight months on Tour.

Lowry's big, languid swing; his crisp wedge play and fearless putting on heavily-grained greens look a potent mix on this Arnie Palmer creation.

In sharp contrast with last summer's first faltering steps on the professional fairways, Lowry is so relaxed on the golf course these days, he smiles as much as Padraig Harrington.

Indeed, the Offaly man and his Bray caddie Dermot Byrne literally laughed all the way up the leaderboard yesterday.

Like many a veteran golfer, Clarke has too many mental scars to hit putts with the same raw aggression as Lowry — but the Ulsterman got damned close to it yesterday as he rammed home nine birdies, seven of them in his final 11 holes.

In this mood, Clarke is positively dangerous.

Evidence the fearless 290-yard three-wood he fired into the heart of the green at the par-five ninth, setting-up a closing two-putt birdie.

He was simply oblivious to the water hazard lying menacingly on the left.

With every respect to Lane, who at 49 suddenly seems to have discovered a formula for success on the greens, and anyone else in contention, Irish golf fans will hunger for a high-noon showdown between Lowry and Clarke tomorrow.

Ballyclare man Gareth Maybin could also get himself into the mix after a second-round 69 lifted him into a share of 20th place on five-under.

Gary Murphy, five-over for the tournament with just three holes to play, faced the futility of rising before dawn in New Delhi to complete his round with absolutely no prospect of making the projected cut of one-under-par.

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