Shane Lowry confident he will take some stopping in Abu Dhabi

The Irishman was once again in fine form around the National course in the UAE capital. (AFP)
Updated 17 January 2019
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Shane Lowry confident he will take some stopping in Abu Dhabi

  • Irishman Lowry leads by one shot after gritty round in UAE capital.
  • Westwood and Oosthuizen in hot pursuit at Rolex event.

LONDON: For the second day in a row it was a case of catch me if you can at the
Abu Dhabi Golf Championship as Shane Lowry remained on top of the leaderboard.
The Irishman shot a record-equalling 62 in the first round to make a statement of intent in the UAE capital. He followed that up with a more sedate two-under 70 yesterday to stay out in front on
12-under, a shot ahead of South African duo Louis Oosthuizen and Richard Sterne.
Having made such a great start, Lowry knew he had to keep his concentration and that if he hung in there, he would stay ahead of the rest of the field.
“I’m really happy with that,” the world No.75 said.
“I knew today was going to be a bit of a weird day after shooting such a low score (on Wednesday). 
“I just tried to go out and play like I played. To be honest, right from the start, I really feel like I played pretty well today. I think
I gave myself a lot of chances.
“Some of the shots early on were pretty horrendous. I battled back and hit some really nice shots out there, and hit some in close and made some birdies. I was happy with myself.”
Lowry has had a patchy run of form over the past 12 months, with only three top 10 finishes in 2018. But on the National course he has looked back to his best. Yesterday he showed grit and determination to bounce back from two bogeys in the first three holes. He fired in four birdies over the remaining holes to stay on top of the leaderboard.
And Lowry claimed he is in the sort of form that will make it tough for his rivals to catch him.
“I am happy to be in the lead going into the weekend,” he said.
“My iron play is good and playing the par-3s very well. I am happy with where my game is at and I am looking forward to the weekend.
“This is a huge event and it would be nice to get off to a good start, get some Race to Dubai points on the board and kick on from there.”
If Lowry is to stay ahead of the impressive field and win his first title since the 2015 WGC-Bridgestone Invitational, he will have to hold off the challenge of a revitalized Lee Westwood. The former world No. 1 backed up his opening 66 with a four-under 68 to lie two shots back. The Englishman won the Nedbank Challenge — like the Abu Dhabi Golf Championship, one of the eight events that make up the cash-rich Rolex series — in December and has looked close
to his brilliant best over the first two rounds.
A good showing in the UAE will help him get back into the world top 50 and into the Majors, one of Westwood’s aims for the year.
Also showing the sort of form that made him one of the best golfers in the world was Oosthuizen. The former Open champion shot a four-under 68 to lie on 11-under going into the final two rounds, and he is looking forward to trying to chase down Lowry.
“Trying to win any event and going into the weekend really close, it’s always exciting,” the South African world No. 26 said.


Naomi Osaka shocked as Kristina Mladenovic downs world No. 1 in Dubai

Updated 15 min 4 sec ago
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Naomi Osaka shocked as Kristina Mladenovic downs world No. 1 in Dubai

  • It was Osaka's first match since she won the Australian Open — her second consecutive Grand Slam title.
  • World No. 67 Mladenovic lost for words after surprise win.

DUBAI: Naomi Osaka stumbled badly in her first match since winning the Australian Open as the world number one went down in a flurry of errors to exit the Dubai Championships on Tuesday.
Dubai-based Frenchwoman Kristina Mladenovic claimed a 6-3, 6-3 victory to reach the third round as Osaka made 25 unforced errors.
The rout, which featured seven breaks of the Osaka serve, took barely an hour, sending Mladenovic into a Wednesday contest with Carla Suarez Navarro.
“This is my home tournament, I live here,” world No. 67 Mladenovic said. “It’s great to get a win like this in front of a big crowd.
“Beating the number one is always special.”
The second set was riddled with seven consecutive breaks of serve before Mladenovic finished off the job with a winner to the empty court on match point.
Osaka stunned the tennis world last week by announcing her split from coach Sascha Bajin despite winning back-to-back Grand Slam titles at the US and Australian Opens.
She said earlier this week that she would not prioritize “success over happiness” when asked about the sacking, and she never looked like winning in Dubai as she also served five double faults.
Earlier on Tuesday, Simona Halep and Petra Kvitova both won their opening matches, while Elina Svitolina made a strong start to her bid for a third straight title.
Kvitova, the 2013 winner, recovered from losing a first-set tiebreak to defeat Katerina Siniakova 6-7 (3/7), 6-4, 6-4 and squeeze into the third round.
Halep, Dubai champion in 2015, saw off 2014 Wimbledon finalist Eugenie Bouchard 7-6 (7/4), 6-4.
The Romanian said she is still feeling the effects of her weekend final defeat in Doha by Elize Mertens.
“It was a good match because I won it. I tried to finish the points faster because I’m a little bit tired,” Halep said.
“She played well, the level was pretty good. At some points I really ran very well. I’m confident. I feel good on court even if I’m tired.”
A third former world number one also advanced as Angelique Kerber beat Dalila Jakupovic 7-6 (7/4), 6-3.
Kvitova, Wimbledon champion in 2011 and 2014, said she was unfazed about the early midday start to her match.
“I don’t really care if I play the first match,” the Australian Open runner-up said. “Now I’m done, so I have a free afternoon.
“I’m not sure what I’m pleased with... maybe with my comeback at the end.”