By Brian Keogh
Shane Lowry. Photo by Golffile
Shane Lowry headed for Abu Dhabi with a spring in his step after firing a superb 64 to finish second behind wire-to-wire winner Wade Ormsby in the Hong Kong Open.
Ten years after missing the cut for the second year in a row on his last trip to Hong Kong, the Open champion showed he’s now a far more accomplished player as he began his push for Ryder Cup qualification in hugely positive fashion.
“It’s a golf course I obviously didn’t have much success on in the past but I’m a different player than I was then, and I really enjoyed it this week,” said Lowry, who picked up a welcome haul of Ryder Cup qualifying points, a timely confidence boost ahead of the $7 million Abu Dhabi HSBC Championship defence this week and a cheque for $110,000.
“I said to my caddy going down the last, we need to start picking courses that suit me and I think this is one of the courses that suits me.”
A runner-up finish represented the second-best start to a season in Lowry’s 11-year career, bettered only by last year’s hugely significant victory in Abu Dhabi.
Having started the day in a six-way tie for ninth, six shots behind the 39-year old Australian, the Offalyman showed his intent by holing a bunker shot for an opening birdie three.
Ormsby would start with a bogey some 30 minutes later to allow Lowry to cut the gap to four, but the Adelaide native then birdied the next three holes in a row en route to a four-under 66 and a four-shot win over Lowry on 17-under par.
“I’m very happy with myself,” said Lowry, who birdied the fourth, 10th and 12th to move into second place and then eagled the par-five 13th from 18 feet to briefly cut Ormsby’s lead to three.
“Fair play to Wade, he’s run away with it and didn’t really give us a chance but I went out there and did as much as I could. 64 around here is a pretty good score in these conditions.”
Lowry’s slim hopes of victory evaporated with a bogey at the 15th and while he holed a curling putt from 30 feet from the at the 16th to give himself a glimmer of hope, he couldn’t birdie either of the last two holes and Ormsby birdied the 17th to take a comfortable four-shot lead down the 18th.
“I felt like the pressure was on all week,” Ormsby said after two-putting from long-range for a closing par at the treacherous 18th. “I’m proud of the way I played this week and it’s nice to get 2020 off to a flying start.
“It’s still nerve-racking coming down the stretch you know, like that 18th hole, it can do anything to you but I got the tee-shot in play and hit a weak iron shot into it but anyway. Four on the card and won by four, so I’m very happy.”
Thailand’s Gunn Charoenkul was third on 12-under after a 69 with compatriot Jazz Janewattananond fourth, a shot further back
Lowry played the final round alongside Japan’s Tomoharu Otsuki and world No 16 Tony Finau, who double-bogeyed the 18th to finish fifth on 10-under after a 67.