What appeared to be a relatively benign second day at the Horizon Irish Open suddenly sparked into life in the final hour, and boy did Shane Lowry deliver at Mount Juliet.
The Offaly man rose like Lazarus after playing his first 14 holes in two-over and looking seemingly destined to miss the cut, but birdied his last four holes to make it with a shot to spare.
Needing a birdie down the 18th to ensure his weekend berth — in the end he only needed a par but wasn’t to know at the time — Lowry hit a beautiful 8-iron to 18-feet and drained the putt, firing up a raucous crowd with a thunderous fist-pump in celebration.
The former Open champion would sign for a two-under 70 and, at three-under-par for the tournament, realistically he is not in a position to challenge being eight shots from leader Jorge Campillo, but for the drama alone it was something to behold.
“I haven’t seen a reaction like that on a Friday in tournament golf as long as I have played. It was amazing,” said playing partner Séamus Power.
Lowry himself was revelling in the reception, grinning: “It was good fun. Séamus was out there and I was kind of playing second fiddle to him, he was rolling putts in and the crowd were getting behind him and I felt a little flat for a long time, but as soon as I started making a few putts the crowd helped me along the way coming down the last few holes.”
“Ah, that’s why we love this tournament, that’s why we love this country, moments like that.”
Playing alongside him, Power is the one fuelling the Irish interest heading into the weekend as he braved the afternoon elements with a four-under 68 to sit three shots back at eight-under.
His memorable moment was a sumptuous fairway bunker shot from 250 yards on the par-five 10th that found the middle of the green and led to a tap-in birdie, while his own birdie on the 18th wasn’t met with quite as much fanfare as Lowry’s but was just as important to take him tied-fourth going into today’s action.
“My game feels in good shape and I feel in a good place mentally. They are two important factors, but you need stuff to go your way and we will see,” the West Waterford man said.
“The plan is to have a good round on Saturday so I have a chance on Sunday.”
Spain’s Campillo is the shock leader as he got the luck of the draw at Mount Juliet, playing in the benign and dry morning conditions and carding a four-under 68 to reach 11-under-par, and he leads by one from Poland’s Adrian Meronk and Paraguay’s Fabrizio Zanotti at the halfway point.
The World No.350 is a two-time winner on Tour but hasn’t triumphed since 2020, though he has been pleasantly surprised by how he’s performed so far.
“I played great over the last two days, so I can’t complain,” he said.
“It’s going to be a hard weekend but I’m just looking forward to it. If I can keep putting the ball in play off the tee, hitting good irons like I’ve been doing, not missing short putts, it will be a good weekend I think.”
Pádraig Harrington also made the cut at three-under, while Niall Kearney made it in on the number at two-under, but there will be no Northern Irish representation in the last two rounds as Jonathan Caldwell, Cormac Sharvin and Colm Campbell missed the cut.
Sharvin shot a 76 to finish four-over, Caldwell a 78 to end five-over and Warrenpoint amateur Campbell carded a 75 to sit eight-over.