Shane Lowry was pleased he was able to keep his momentum going to the end of his third round at The Players Championship, which has him three shots off the lead going into the final round on Monday.
The Offaly man generated all the headlines on Sunday when he aced the par-three 17th at TPC Sawgrass, which brought him into contention having at one point been at risk of missing the cut altogether; now he is firmly in the mix with 18 holes to play.
Lowry returned to the course on Monday morning and added one more birdie – at his final hole, the par-five ninth – for a five-under 67 that has him six-under for the tournament and in a share of eighth, trailing leader Anirban Lahiri by three shots going into round four.
While it was not surprising to see the former Open champion ride the wave of momentum from his hole-in-one to a good round overall, he did admit he had to be wary it didn’t work against him, and he was glad he didn’t fall into that trap.
“It’s funny because sometimes it can work the other way. You do something like that and it can be hard to come down off a high like that,” he claimed.
“I obviously bogeyed (the 18th) afterwards, but I went on to birdie the first and second when I turned and I came back out this morning and hit some nice shots. But I should have birdied 6 and then birdied 9 there.
“I feel like I’m going to be within somewhat touching distance of the leaders and hopefully I can shoot a low number. But it kick-started my tournament, really. I said to Bo when I was standing at the back of the green after all the madness, I said ‘we’re back in the tournament now’.
“I’m looking forward to this afternoon.”
Due to delays earlier in the week for heavy rain and high winds, Lowry returned to the course on Monday morning with four holes left of his third round to complete and, although he missed from five-feet for birdie at the sixth, he picked up a shot on the par-five ninth to reach the clubhouse at six-under.
It has been a week like no other for the 34-year-old, who didn’t step foot on the Stadium Course between being one of the rare players to finish his first round on Thursday and returning to start his second round on Sunday morning, meaning he will play 54 holes in under 48 hours.
“I think when you’ve been out on Tour – this is my 14th season, I started in Europe in 2009 – and I think you just get used to it. You just kind of relax, and there’s nothing you can do about it, and even like I was fortunate enough I was on the good side of the draw, but even when you get the bad side of the draw, you just have to take it on the chin and get on with it,” pointed out Lowry.
“I had a pretty nice couple of days off, Friday and Saturday, there’s a lot of sports on TV on Saturday I watched, and yeah, I just chilled out. But like I said, you get used to it over the years.
“Obviously this is the first week where it’s gone on so long that I can remember. Playing my second round on a Sunday morning was a bit weird, but it doesn’t even feel like a Monday today.
“Going out now this afternoon at The Players Championship on a Monday afternoon feels a bit weird, but I’m looking forward to it.”
He will start three back of Lahiri, who returned on Monday morning and added a birdie and a bogey in his remaining seven holes to card a five-under 67 that has him one clear of Sebastián Muñoz, Doug Ghim, Paul Casey and Sam Burns going into the afternoon’s final round.
The Indian, who is ranked 322nd in the world, is seeking his first PGA Tour victory and showed an excellent ability to bounce back for the second straight day as he immediately cancelled out a bogey on the 15th with a birdie on the par-five 16th.
Muñoz completed the lowest round of the week by any player as he birdied the par-five ninth for a seven-under 65 to move up to eight-under, a score matched by Ghim’s 68, Casey’s 69 and Burns’ 71 to leave them one shot adrift.
Australia’s Cameron Smith and halfway leader Tom Hoge start the final round two shots back at seven-under, with Lowry headlining a group of seven players at six-under and still in with a shout inside the top-10.
What will win it? Even the players aren’t sure.
“I have no idea,” laughs Lowry. “It’s probably going to be a nice afternoon, so scoring is probably going to be pretty hot this afternoon with the conditions of the golf course. The greens are nice and they’re soft.
“I’m probably going to have to shoot a pretty good number to give myself a chance.”
Meanwhile, Seamus Power struggled for form upon his restart on Monday morning as he resumed at three-under for the tournament but double-bogeyed the par-four 15th and then found the water on the par-five 16th to drop another shot.
A rare birdie at the 18th for the Waterford man got him back into red figures, but overall it was a disappointing one-over 73 that drops him back to one-under and, barring a huge final round, out of contention.
Rory McIlroy, who snuck just inside the cut mark at the last moment, definitely won’t be challenging the top of the leaderboard as he shot a third consecutive round of 73 to sit three-over for the week, two bogeys and two birdies on his back nine keeping him well adrift.
It was a good day for Viktor Hovland, though, as he joined Lowry in recording an ace, the Norwegian holing a 4-iron on the 219-yard eighth on his way to a four-under 68 that has him five back heading into the final round.
- Full scoring HERE