PORTRUSH, Northern Ireland (Reuters) - Ireland's Shane Lowry grabbed a share of the lead at the British Open after carding a second consecutive round of 67 giving himself a chance of redeeming his 2016 meltdown at the U.S. Open.
Lowry, given warm support throughout his round at Royal Portrush, will be paired with co-leader J.B. Holmes in the final group on Saturday as both look to give themselves a real chance of a maiden major success.
The burly Irishman, given loud support by the packed galleries, opened with three successive birdies, made another at the fifth and then the eighth as he stormed into the outright lead.
When his ball, sporting the four-leafed clover emblem, disappeared after a magnificent putt on the 10th he held a two-shot lead but he then bogeyed the par-four 14th.
He then missed a 12-foot par putt, after an overly-aggressive approach on the final hole, to end in disappointing fashion with a bogey.
"Obviously every day you play golf it could be better. But you look at the start I got off to, it doesn't get any better than that. I'm very happy where I am and right where I want to be," he told reporters.
"Obviously when I got to 10-under you're looking at keeping it there, to get more. I'm at 8-under now and I'm happy with my two days' work."
It has not been a great Open so far for Irish and Northern Irish golfers but while the likes of Rory McIlroy has struggled, the 32-year-old Lowry surely senses a chance of glory.
Inevitably he was reminded of how, three years ago, he blew a four-stroke lead at the U.S. Open, at Oakmont, finishing with a six-over 76 to finish tied for second, three strokes behind winner Dustin Johnson.
"Oakmont was so long ago and I was a lot younger. I feel like if I get the opportunity this week I'll be better. It definitely won't affect me what happened in Oakmont. Obviously I've got over that. Like, it took me a while to get over it but I got over it.
"I'm just out here on the Tour trying to compete as best I can. This week it's pretty good, so hopefully I can just continue on over the next couple of days and see where it leaves me."
But try as he might to convince himself that this is just another weekend of golf, the bearded Lowry, who plays with the Irish flag on his shoes, cannot help but think about a possible triumph.
"You start thinking about it when people start asking you about it," he said with a grin.
"I'm obviously going to be thinking about it tonight. There's no point in shying away from it. I'm in a great position. But, my God, have we got a long way to go. There's two rounds of golf on this golf course against the best field in the world."
(Reporting by Simon Evans, editing by Pritha Sarkar)
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