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February 20 2013

11:49 AM

Irish lads McIlroy, Lowry ready to duel

Shane Lowry burst onto the scene in 2009 when he won the Irish Open as an amateur.

By Mike McAllister, PGATOUR.COM

MARANA, Ariz. -- Shane Lowry, the 64th overall seed this week at Dove Mountain, knows it will be "nerve-racking" moment when he tees off Thursday against top overall seed Rory McIlroy. But he also wants to enjoy every moment of their first-round match.

The match was one of nine that didn't get going Wednesday after snow blanketed the course at Dove Mountain.

"I'm here playing against the world No. 1 in the World Golf Championships," Lowry said. "What more do you want? What's not to enjoy about it?"

It helps that Lowry and McIlroy have known each other for nearly a decade. Lowry, from Ireland, and McIlroy, from Northern Ireland, played amateur golf together. They've played practice rounds together. They go out for dinner when they're playing the same tournaments. And McIlroy was there when Lowry won the Irish Open as an amateur in 2009; in fact, McIlroy even helped spray champagne on Lowry during the victory celebration.

McIlroy, who reached the finals here last year before losing to Hunter Mahan, is also excited about playing his long-time amateur teammate. 

"It's pretty cool to think where we've come from," McIlroy said.

The Irish match-up wasn't officially set until Sunday night. Lowry was projected to be the 63rd seed and play Tiger Woods in the first round. But Fredrik Jacobson moved up in the Official World Golf Rankings with his tie for third at the Northern Trust Open, knocking Lowry down to the final seed in the 64-man field.

"Tiger would have been quite daunting," Lowry said. "But I think because I know Rory so well, not that it's going to be an easier match for me, it's going to be easier to stand on that first tee and look Rory in the face and know that I've got a good chance of beating him."

It wouldn't be unprecedented for the 64th seed to knock off the top seed. It's happened three times in this event, including last year when Ernie Els beat Luke Donald.

McIlroy has only played once this year but knows he must shake off the rust right away.

"You can be going home early," he said. "It's great -- it focuses you right away."

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