ABU DHABI, United Arab Emirates (AP) — Shane Lowry of Ireland recovered from two early bogeys Thursday by hitting enough good shots for a 2-under 70, giving him a one-shot lead going into the weekend at the Abu Dhabi Championship.
Louis Oosthuizen and Richard Sterne of South Africa each shot 68 and were one shot behind.
Lowry, who began the first European Tour event of the year with a 62, made bogey on the par-5 second hole and was happy to escape with a bogey on the next one. That settled him down, and while he played the par 5s in 1 over for the round, he had three birdies on the par 3s for the second straight day.
“I hit some really rocky shots, didn’t feel too confident, but I made a great up-and-down on the third hole for bogey, and I think that kind of kick-started me,” Lowry said. “I pretty much was hitting the ball decent after that for the rest of the day. Gave myself a lot of chances. I didn’t convert as many as I would have liked, but I’m pretty happy to shoot 70, and to be in the lead going into the weekend is always nice.”
Lee Westwood, who ended a four-year victory drought on the European Tour in November, had a 68 and was two shots back.
Three-time major champion Brooks Koepka, who has a chance to return to No. 1 in the world this week, bogeyed the 18th hole for a 70 and was five shots behind. Dustin Johnson had a 71 and was eight shots behind. Another shot back was Tommy Fleetwood, who is going for a third straight title in Abu Dhabi. Fleetwood had to make an 8-foot birdie on his last hole for a 72 to make the cut on the number.
Oosthuizen’s second shot on the par-5 10th hit a cart path, a bad break that led to a drop on the 11th tee box and a bogey. He followed with another bogey, but recovered to make a pair of birdies and then caught a pair of breaks on the par-5 18th, including a second shot that skirted out of the bunker and allowed him to hit his approach to tap-in range for birdie.
“I got very lucky, and got lucky on the second shot, as well,” Oosthuizen said. “Some weeks you have those breaks going your way and other weeks you don’t.”
Sterne, meanwhile, has yet to make a bogey for the opening 36 holes.
Ian Poulter played in the morning and had four birdies in six holes to tie for the lead before Lowry teed off. Poulter missed a birdie on No. 8, his 17th hole, and then hit in the water on the ninth and made bogey. He still managed a 69 and was three shots behind, remarkable considering his travels.
Poulter played the opening two weeks of the U.S. tour in Hawaii. He left Honolulu on Sunday night for Los Angeles, had a nine-hour layover before his flight to the United Arab Emirates and arrived at his hotel on Tuesday night. He shot 66 the next morning, and followed that with more good golf.
He attributed the bogey on his last hole to a mental error.
“Obviously slightly tired, allowing that kind of nonsense to get in there, because pretty much the rest of the day was flawless,” Poulter said. “It’s a bit of a frustrating way to finish, but if you’d have offered me that stepping off the plane a couple nights ago, I would have taken it.”
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