Rory McIlroy, Shane Lowry finish Friday strong to stay in contention at the Zurich Classic 2024

AVONDALE, La. — After shooting 61 in fourball Thursday during the opening round of the Zurich Classic at TPC Louisiana, Rory McIlroy and Shane Lowry accomplished what they set out to do: keep themselves in contention heading into the weekend.

Teeing off on the 10th hole, about 14 hours after completing a round that included 11 birdies, the Irishmen knew that Friday was going to be more challenging. Instead of having two balls in play and two chances to make a birdie, Friday’s foursomes format, also known as alternate shot, would make it harder to score and put pressure on both players.

“It was a tough day,” Lowry said after coming out of the scorer’s trailer. “I feel like we did a good job and came back towards the end. In the middle of the round, we let it get away from us a little bit, but that’s foursomes. We hung in there and 2 under is not a bad score.”

That 2-under 70 moved Lowry and McIlroy to 13 under for the tournament and into a tie for the lead with David Lipsky and Aaron Rai, who also shot 70. Callum Tarren and David Skinns shot 69 to finish at 12 under, as did veterans Zach Johnson and Ryan Palmer, and Canada’s Nick Taylor and Adam Hadwin also finished the day at 12 under.

While the leaderboard remained tightly packed throughout the morning’s action, all eyes were on the Irish Ryder Cup stars.

Rory McIlroy and Shane Lowry walks down the fairway to the 18th green during the second round of the Zurich Classic of New Orleans golf tournament. Mandatory Credit: Stephen Lew-USA TODAY Sports

After making par on the opening hole, Lowry, who teed off on the odd-numbered holes, hit a drive into good position, but McIlroy’s approach on the par 5 went over the green. Hitting the next shot, Lowry deftly chipped the ball into a bank behind the hole and then watched the ball pop onto the green and nearly roll into the cup for an eagle. After Rory tapped in for birdie, they reached 12 under.

“Shane has got a wonderful short game, and it gives me confidence going for those greens, whether it be the par-4s or the par-5s,” McIlroy said. “If I get it anywhere up there around the green, I’m going to have a very good look for birdie after he hits his.”

After making a bogey on 12 and recovering with a birdie on 13, the 17th hole, a 211-yard par 3 with water along the left side, provided some levity. Lowry’s tee shot was left of the left-positioned flagstick the whole way, and he said, “Sorry Rors,” while the ball flew toward the green. Rory already had a tee in his hand, preparing to hit his team’s next shot, when Lowry’s ball landed in the collar short and left of the green, staying dry by three or four feet.

Lowry comically fell to the ground and laid on his back in relief. McIlroy and the crowd around the tee box burst into laughter before Rory putted from the fringed area to about four feet and Lowry made the par putt to keep the pair at 12 under.

The next four holes gave McIlroy and Lowry trouble, mainly because Lowry’s putter went cold. After McIlroy hit a great chip from behind the 18th green to set up a three-foot birdie putt, Lowry missed. From 145 yards out on the next hole, McIlroy’s approach shot was a dart that stopped 10 feet from the hole, but Lowry missed the birdie putt again. Lowry missed a 15-foot birdie putt on the next hole, then a 10-foot par putt on the third hole.

“After those, it’s easy to sort of get hard on yourself, and I was just trying to keep (Shane) as positive as possible and just remind him that I’m here,” McIlroy said. “I’m here to back him up in any way that I can. I was just trying to keep him positive.”

It worked because on the fourth hole, Lowry drained a 15-foot par putt that jumpstarted the team’s round.

” I started to get a little bit into myself,” Lowry said. “But to roll that one in was nice, and to play the last few holes the way we did was really nice, too. I think it was a bit of a lesson there for myself, to kind of keep going, and just keep trying and keep plugging away. We did that today, and I’m pretty happy with how we finished.”

Lowry hit a great chip on the seventh hole to set up a tap-in birdie for McIlroy, who, on the next hole, hit a drive that went about 360 yards down the eighth fairway and came to rest in a fairway bunker just short of the green.

“I’ve been there in two before,” Lowry joked. “I knew seven and eight were going to be good chances for us because I knew Rory could drive the green on eight. I knew seven was going to play short. As long as I hit a good drive there, it was going to be a mid-iron for Rory. I knew we had a couple of chances coming in. We managed to take them, and that was nice.”

Story originally appeared on GolfWeek