Shane Lowry boosted hopes of advancing to the knockout stages of the WGC- Dell Technologies Match-Play but only after being handed a late-round fright by South African rival Erik van Rooyen.
Lowry was in the box seat, ready to hand Van Rooyen a 4&3 thumping on the 15th green but van Rooyen had not read the script. For 14 holes in their match, it was all Lowry. He went 1 up at the fourth, 2 up at the seventh, 3 up on 12, and then 4 up at the 14th before Van Rooyen delayed what looked like the unavoidable with a birdie at the 15th.
Van Rooyen, already ruled out of advancing, then pulled back another shot brilliantly holing an 18-foot eagle putt at the par-5 16th, for Lowry to be now just 2 up. And if you thought we’d already seen the best of van Rooyen, he teed off the par-3 17th, sensationally landing his tee shot to just under two feet from the flag, to make it three birdies in succession, and this after Lowry found a greenside bunker with his tee shot on route to a par.
So, after looking to close out his match on 15, Lowry was headed down battling to par the last and win by the slimmest of margins at 1 up.
Both players were on the final green in two with van Rooyen eventually conceding Lowry’s short birdie putt before van Rooyen posted par for Lowry to be officially credited with a 2 up victory.
“Erik did a great job there at the end, and he kind of did what I did to Harold yesterday,” said Lowry. “He just kind of hung in there and I always say it because of this course, and if you get a match that goes down 16, as anything can happen then. You can go eagle, birdie, birdie, and Erik nearly did that.
“So, I am very relieved and dinner is going to taste nice tonight, and I’m looking forward to tomorrow.”
Lowry faces the unbeaten Brooks Koepka who easily accounted for Harold Varner III 2&1. However, if Lowry defeats Koepka and also Varner III wins out over van Rooyen, there will be three players tied at the top of group 16 on four points. That would mean a sudden-death play-off to decide who goes through to the final 16. There would be a two-man play off if Lowry gets the better of Koepka.
“Brooks Koepka is obviously one of the best players in the world but I’m playing nice golf, and I will go out there and play as good as I can and see what happens,” Lowry said.
Though before heading off to the close-by clubhouse, Lowry was quizzed if he is a fan of the tournament format.
“I’ve never had good success here. I’m not sure — I don’t know, not sure if I love the format. I’d love it if it was a straight knockout format personally,” he said. “Obviously I’d be home today if it was, but I just think it gives it a bit more bite every day or something.
“I will just try and have as good a week as I can, enjoy myself. To be honest, the way I am this week I just want to keep continuing some good golf and keep my confidence levels quite high going into Augusta, and if I can do something good here at the weekend — look, it’s hard to get out of your group in this tournament.
“It’s hard to do quite well in it. Yeah, if I can do something good in the tournament, all well and good, but I just really want to keep my good golf going and confidence levels high.”
GROUP 16 STANDINGS
- Brooks Koepka – 4 points (2 wins)
- Shane Lowry – 2 points (1 win, 1 loss)
- Harold Varner 111 – 2 points (1 win, 1 loss)
- Erik van Rooyen – 0 points (2 losses)
- Full scoring HERE