Shane Lowry made some moving day progress at The Players Championship where Lee Westwood and Bryson DeChambeau will play in Sunday’s final group together for the second consecutive week.
Reigning Open Champion Lowry put the disappointment of a second round 74 behind him to rise six places on the leaderboard to a share of 16th with a three-under par 69. The Clara star holed a 40 foot putt for birdie to kick-start his third round, adding another gain at the par-4 seventh to be out bogey-free in 34.
Lowry was only able to par the par-5 11th and missed a great chance form 14 feet for birdie on 12 before chipping in for birdie off the left side of the 13th green to move to five-under par for the tournament. Lowry’s first dropped shot of the day arrived on the 15th after finding the trees left off the tee, a shot he would get back with a routine birdie at the reachable par-5 16th.
A good two putt on the island green 17th and the same again at the last saw Lowry home in 69, eight shots off Lee Westwood’s lead but just four strokes behind the top-5 with a big Sunday finish at the $15million event sure to provide Lowry with a much-needed boost in the Ryder Cup standings.
Meanwhile, Englishman Westwood looks a golfer reborn after carding his second straight bogey-free round and the seventh of his career at The Players, the most of any player since 2005 as he moved to 13-under par. Westwood fired four birdies on Saturday and has now played 44 consecutive holes without a bogey, propelling the 47-year old to his second consecutive 54-hole lead having led by one through three rounds at last week’s Arnold Palmer Invitational.
“I said yesterday, that I don’t like to compare the Lee Westwood of 10 years ago or 20 years ago to the Lee Westwood of today,” said Westwood. “I’m certainly having as much fun on the golf course as I’ve ever had, and that probably is helping me play some great golf.”
As for the tax on his body at this stage of his career?
“Legs are getting — are a little achy towards the end of the day, but they still feel under me in my swing, and I still feel like I’m controlling them. I’ll take it easy tonight and try and get a good night’s sleep and try and take it easy tomorrow morning. I won’t be running on the treadmill in the gym tomorrow morning or going and doing weights!”
Instead it would be a nice dinner with his caddie and girlfriend Helen Storey who has brought an air of calm to Westwood’s game that cannot be discounted.
“Yeah, I think at my stage of my career, there’s not a lot a caddie can tell me, but obviously Helen gets me in a fantastic mood out there, and psychologically she can help me and say the things that I need to hear,” Westwood added. “You know, she helps me in that aspect an immeasurable amount.”
Westwood knows he’ll need all the help he can muster ahead of another Sunday battle with big-hitting Bryson DeChambeau, who has proved his game is so much more than brute strength this week at TPC Sawgrass. The world number six posted six birdies in a five-under par round of 67 and trails Westwood by two, knowing he’s in for another battle against the experienced Ryder Cup star on Sunday.
“Yeah, Mr. Consistency,” Bryson said of what impressed him about Westwood. “I mean, his driving is impeccable, his iron play is impeccable and he makes putts when he needs to. Fortunately for me last week I was able to get the job done, and I think tomorrow is going to be an incredible battle.”
DeChambeau was also asked for his reaction following Rory McIlroy’s admission that he’s gone in search of power in response to the American’s demolition of the US Open field last year at Winged Foot.
“You know, I appreciate it, first off,” said DeChambeau. “The second comment I would have that — I wasn’t trying to influence anybody. I was just trying to play my own game and hit it as far as I possibly could. And I knew there was going to be an affect. I didn’t know what it would be or who would be affected by it, but again, golf is a weird game. This journey that I’m on is not taken lightly.
“I’ve tried to figure out a bunch of different variables that you have to in order to hit it straight, hitting it really far. I knew that there would be some people that would try and some people it would potentially not work for them and some people it may help them. So I really don’t know that, but I do appreciate Rory’s comments, it’s kind of a sentiment almost and something that keeps me going every day.”
The cream has risen to the top at TPC Sawgrass with DeChambeau just one clear of world number three Justin Thomas who fired a tournament low-round of eight-under par 64 to move to 10-under. That’s one stroke clear of world number two Jon Rahm and England’s Paul Casey who both carded 67’s.
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