MARANA, Ariz. –– Players sometimes must go to great lengths to establish themselves among golf’s elite. Take the case of the WGC-Accenture Match Play’s Cinderella, Shane Lowry of Ireland.
He bested the world’s best player en route to the Round of 16, but now is headed nearly across the continent to compete against mini-tour players and club pros in the Honda Classic’s Monday qualifier.
He isn’t the only Match Play contestant trying to Monday qualify: Marcel Siem, Alexander Noren, Jamie Donaldson, George Coetzee and Marcus Fraser also are in the field. There are only four Honda Classic spots available at the qualifier.
Lowry lost to Graeme McDowell, 3 and 2, on Saturday afternoon at Dove Mountain. Beating two major champions from Northern Ireland was just too much to ask for the tournament’s 64th seed. Lowry won the second hole with birdie, but then found sand on the next two to fall 1 down. McDowell led the rest of the way. Three consecutive birdies on Nos. 7-9, two of which came on putts of approximately 30 feet, gave McDowell a 4-up lead at the turn.
‘With the possibility of another 18 holes this afternoon,” McDowell said, “I was very keen to get the match out of the way as soon as I could, especially when I was 3 and 4 up. But Shane is a gritty competitor.”
Lowry showed that earlier this week, when he beat World No. 1 Rory McIlroy, 1 up, in the first round. He followed with a 6-and-5 victory over Carl Pettersson. McDowell will face Jason Day in Saturday afternoon’s quarterfinals. This is the farthest McDowell has advanced in seven Match Play appearances; he’d lost in the first round in four of his previous six starts at this event.
Lowry already was the first 64 seed to advance to the third round. He could make it no further, and now will be left on the precipice of the Official World Golf Ranking’s top 50, a standing that earns him positions in the game’s biggest events.
Lowry, who started the week at No. 68 in the Official World Golf Ranking, has one more week to crack the top 50 and earn a spot in another World Golf Championship, the Cadillac Championship at Doral. If not, he’s playing the PGA Tour’s other event that week, the Puerto Rico Open. A Masters spot – given to the OWGR’s top 50 on April 1 – will be his next goal.
Lowry leaves Dove Mountain with the confidence that comes from beating No. 1. How good a week was his stay in Arizona? He never had to pay for dinner. Lowry ate all week with McDowell and McIlroy, his longtime friends, and their managers at Horizon Sports. Lowry never lost at credit-card roulette. His only loss came later than anyone could have expected.
“I had a great week here,” Lowry said. “I learned a lot about myself. I learned that I’m good enough to compete at the highest level.”
He has to participate in Monday qualifying next, though.