Shane Lowry admits catching runaway leader Daniel Berger is going to be a massive ask at the Honda Classic as he enters the final round five shots adrift despite being insecond place.
The Offaly man shot the best round of the day at PGA National, a three-under 67, to move up into second place alongside Sepp Straka, Kurt Kitayama and Chris Kirk but still a long way back of the impressive Berger, who signed for a one-under 69 in his third round.
Lowry combined four birdies with just one bogey in a tidy round in Palm Beach Gardens, and of Berger’s challengers he carries the most momentum into the final round, but the former Open champion admits he’s not holding out much hope that the leader is in reach.
“(Berger)’s obviously playing really well, he likes it around here, he’s done well in the past,” said Lowry, who is making his first PGA Tour start of the season.
“Obviously you want to go out and catch him tomorrow, but I don’t think you can go and catch anyone on this golf course, you just need to do your thing and shoot the best score you can and hopefully it will be somewhere near good enough.
“I was trying to make birdie on the last to try and get into the final group… just to try and put a little bit of pressure on him and keep an eye on him. But there’s other guys up there at the top of the leaderboard that are going to be thinking the same.
“So I just need to focus back on myself and worry about what I’m doing and I think if I could shoot another 67 or maybe even one better tomorrow you never know I might not be far away.”
There was plenty for Lowry to be pleased with on Saturday as he came out on top of the field with a fine performance that has him at least in the mix for a third PGA Tour victory, with the 34-year-old mastering the tricky PGA National and its fearsome Bear Trap.
Lowry was quickly on the board in his third round when he birdied the par-five third after hitting the green in two, and then he added another when an eight-foot birdie putt dropped at the par-four fourth.
It could have been three-in-a-row had a five-foot putt at the par-three fifth dropped, however he perhaps should have dropped a shot at the par-four sixth when he had to hack out of a fairway bunker, but he rescued a par with a 20-foot par putt.
“That was good for momentum,” conceded Lowry. “But I have it in my head you’re probably going to make bogeys out here, just need to keep the doubles off the card and try and make birdies when you do get the chances and hopefully you shoot a good score at the end of the day.
“I think I’m in a good frame of mind that way. I’m taking the bad breaks on the chin and taking the good breaks and good shots and moving on and try on the next one. So, yeah, but it was, it was huge for momentum that.”
He would drop a shot at the next hole when he failed to make up-and-down from the side of the par-three seventh green to reach the turn in one-under, but he found a good run of form on the back nine.
Back-to-back 11-foot putts dropped on the par-fours at 11 and 12, and he saw another one slide by at 13, before he played confident golf through the Bear Trap. Indeed, his round perhaps could have finished even better had he holed a nine-footer for birdie at the 16th.
But even though he couldn’t find another birdie, he was still the best scorer of the day, something which Lowry himself admitted he would have taken when he teed off.
“I was checking the scoring this morning as I was sitting at home and normally on a Saturday morning on the PGA Tour, somebody shoots five-, six-under and makes a move up the leaderboard. But nobody was doing that this morning and I said to myself coming to the course it’s going to be difficult today,” he added.
“I said to Paul walking down the first, it’s going to be an absolute grind and we just have to take the good breaks and take the bad breaks on the chin and just move on and try and shoot the best score you can, and I’m thankful that that was 67.”
He will be chasing down Berger, who played steady golf by recording just two birdies and one bogey, which came on his final hole, to ensure he will take a lead into the final round for the first time since the 2018 U.S. Open – and a healthy five-shot one at that.
Straka added a 69 of his own to sit alongside Lowry at six-under, with Kitayama and Kirk both carding 71s to join them in what is looking like a race for second place.
Canada’s Adam Svensson is the only other player in the race at the top as a 71 on day three got him to five-under and solo sixth, with there being a three-shot gap between the top-six and the rest of the field.