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just par-fect Shane Lowry and Rory McIlroy storm up Olympic leaderboard after brilliant second rounds in Tokyo

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Shane Lowry of Ireland reacts on the 16th

Shane Lowry of Ireland reacts on the 16th

Shane Lowry of Ireland reacts on the 16th

Rory McIlroy admitted it would be “unbelievable” if he and Shane Lowry could claim medals for Ireland after he fired a five-under 66 and the Offaly man a six-under 65 to roar back into medal contention on another weather-delayed day in Tokyo.

The Irish duo were in four-way tie for seventh on seven-under par when play was suspended for the day due to lightning in the area, four shots behind clubhouse leader Xander Schauffele, who shot an eight-under 63 to lead by one stroke on 11-under par from Mexico’s Carlos Ortiz (67).

Chile’s Mito Pereira (65), Sweden’s Alex Noren (67) and overnight leader Sepp Straka of Austria (71) were tied for third on eight-under with Masters champion Hideki Matsuyama, who was six-under for the day with two to play when the hooter sounded.

Lowry and McIlroy were tied for seventh with Thailand’s Jazz Janewattananond (71) and England’s Paul Casey, who still had one hole to play, at the close of play.

And they were both delighted to find their groove and move into medal contention for the weekend.

“I think I played okay yesterday but I kept hitting it to 25 feet and two putting all day,” Lowry said of his opening 70.

“I rolled a couple of putts in early today and that just gave me a bit of momentum and I just got going and I hit some iron shots close pretty close as well.”

The Clara man knocked in a 30 footer at the second, then made three birdies in a row from the sixth before dropping a shot at the ninth to turn in 33.

Struggling with the driver, he hit more three woods and picked up three birdies at the 13th, 14th and 16th for his 65.

“I didn’t actually drive the ball that good,” Lowry confessed.

“I am not driving it that good at the minute. I need to find more fairways. I feel like if I find more fairways over the weekend, I can really do something.’

Joking he added: “I was going to say I will go and practice but I won’t go. It’s too warm. I am going to go back to the hotel and relax and hopefully I will come out tomorrow and drive the ball better and kick on from there.”

He poked his brother and caddie Alan in the chest at the finish as if to say, we’re back in this.

Golf’s a funny game,” Lowry reflected afterwards. “I started off lovely and just sort of had that momentum for the whole day then. Especially when I came out after the delay. I holed a lovely putt on 13, an eight or nine-footer, and then from there, I just played lovely for the rest of the day. I actually missed a short one on 17, which would have been nice to hole, but I’m happy with my score and very happy that I have a chance to do something special over the weekend.”

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Asked about the team element of possibly playing with McIlroy on Saturday, Lowry recalled how they won the European Team Championship with Ireland in 2007 at Western Gailes but that this was individual.

“When you're out there, you're kind of playing for yourself and playing for your country,” he said. “Like that's what I'm out there playing for and my family and friends and my town and where I grew up and I would love to be able to bring a medal back home.

“That’s the reason I came here this week, that's my No. 1 motivation, it's not to come here and enjoy the Olympics and enjoy the experience. Obviously I am enjoying it, but my ultimate goal is to bring a medal home and that's, I've done a good job of that the last two days and need to do a good job the next two days as well.”

He added: “I just want to get off to a good start tomorrow, shoot a good score and get in the mix for Sunday. That’s what I’ve been wanting since The Open has finished. My full mindset has been just about putting my head down and trying to get myself into contention on Sunday of the Olympics – that even seems weird to say that! Hopefully that happens.”

McIlroy birdied the sixth and seventh and eagled the eighth with a 288 yard three wood to 15 feet before sandwiching birdies at the 12th, 14th and 17th between bogeys at the 11th and 18th.

His birdie at the sixth, where he drove the green and knocked his eagle attempt 15 feet past before making the return, was key.

“It was a momentum starter,” McIlroy said with a chuckle. "I three-putted that green yesterday so I was sort of thinking of that as well.

“It was nice to hole that one coming back and it certainly gave me some momentum going to the 7th, that tee shot there was good and the eagle on the 8th was great. There are a few holes here that the length off the tee is an advantage and that is one of them.”

He added: “I played, I sort of played similarly to how I played yesterday, I just played the par-5s better. I played the par-5s in even par yesterday and I played them in 3-under today and that's the difference between the two scores.

“So yeah it was good. I drove it as well as I did yesterday, hit a couple of loose ones on the way in. I putted nicely. Iron play was pretty good. So pretty pleased.

"The goal today was to sort of get back in touch. Sepp shooting eight-under yesterday was I think it showed everyone what was out there and yeah, I mean that was my thing, I just wanted to get into contention going into the weekend and at least feel like I was still a part of the tournament and I've done that.

"I played nicely. It’s a golf course where you don’t have to do anything spectacular to shoot a score. But you don’t have to do anything that bad to make some bogeys as well."

McIlroy did not arrive in Japan until Tuesday and saw the course just once in practice, which he admitted was a help.

“Sometimes it is better to not know it as well,” he said. “Sometimes it is better not to know where he trouble is and not have memories of where you have hit it before.

“Sometimes I like playing courses, not blind, because I had one practice round on Wednesday, and go straight into the tournament and sometimes that’s not a bad thing.”
McIlroy admits his mental game needs work after he played scared golf in The Open at Royal St George’s

“I think all the tools are there physically, I just mentally there was a few things over the weekend at St. George's like even getting off to that hot start on Saturday and not being able to keep it going,” he said.

“And then I mean the two tee shots I hit off 14 on the weekend were absolutely horrific and it was more a mental thing, it's more just I'm crapping myself about hitting it out of bounds right and I hit it so far left with a 3-iron and then like I chunked a 2-iron on Sunday as well…. When I'm playing my best I don't hit those shots.”

McIlroy’s low key approach to the week is a deliberate effort to ease the pressure and while his comments on the Games and patriotism have caused disquiet, he’s already making plans for 2024 in Paris.

“I never obviously never competed in an Olympic games, I watched them from a far,” he said, adding he was fascinated by the dressage and would be watching it live tonight but for the restrictions.

“But I said this yesterday, being a part of something that's completely different and bigger than me and even our sport in general, that's a pretty cool thing.

"So I didn't know if this was going to be my only Olympics that I play or whatever and I'm already looking forward to Paris.

"Just the experience. And obviously this is a very watered down experience compared to what it usually is so I'm looking forward to three years time.”

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