Lowry forced to do it the hard way if he’s to get back in the PGA Tour winners’ circle

Mark McGowan

Shane Lowry (Photo by Mike Ehrmann/Getty Images)

Mark McGowan

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If Shane Lowry is to finally get his hands on the winners’ trophy at PGA National, he’s going to have to do it the hard way after an uninspiring five holes has seen him fall three shots back at the Cognizant Classic.

Heavy thunderstorms rolled through Palm Beach, Florida, forcing play to be suspended for three-and-a-half hours, leaving the final five groups kicking their heels, unsure if they’d even hit a shot in anger, and when the green light for resumption was actually given, the Florida sunset was quick on its heels, meaning 25 of the 68 players who made the cut have to return on Monday to finish out the event.

Lowry started the day in a three-way tie for the lead with American Austin Eckroat and unheralded Englishman David Skinns after opening with back-to-back 67s and then a third-round 66, that opened up a three-stroke gap to their nearest challengers. But by the time he finally made his way to the first tee at 17:10 local time, they’d been overtaken by Erik Van Rooyen, who blitzed the opening nine to make the turn in -7, and added another birdie at 10 to take sole possession of the lead at -14 when play was suspended.

The round couldn’t have started much better for the Offaly man, striping an iron down the first fairway and then flighting a 9-iron to inside 10 feet, but he overread the break and had to settle for par. Despite finding the fairway bunker on two, he hit another excellent approach, but never gave the putt a chance from 17 feet, and when his pitch shot at the par-5 third came up 15 feet shy, another misread meant he’d covered the opening three in level par but could easily have been two, if not three better.

Skinns, playing alongside Lowry, was struggling as may be expected, but Van Rooyen had set the clubhouse target at -14, and with the course now playing soft and relatively easy, last week’s winner Jake Knapp was making a charge, and Eckroat, playing in the group ahead, steadied the ship after an underwhelming start and birdied the fourth and fifth holes to move to -15.

Lowry parred the fourth as well, but his tee shot to the par-3 fifth was pushed to the right and an uncharacteristically heavy-handed chip left him a 19-footer straight up the hill that he left short in the jaws, dropping back to -12, shortly before the hooter sounded calling proceedings to a halt for the day.

Now three back, he’s become the chaser and will have to bring a changed mindset into his 13 holes on Monday, but if he’s looking for good omens, he doesn’t have far to search. Pádraig Harrington is staying with Lowry this week, and the last time that the Honda Classic – as it was known then – went to a Monday finish, it was none other than Harrington himself who prevailed, beating Daniel Berger in a playoff back in 2015.

Somebody who admits that he prefers tackling a tough golf course, the soft conditions don’t play into Lowry’s hands, but opportunities to win on the PGA Tour don’t come around that often, and now it’s Eckroat, still searching for his first PGA Tour win, who’s had to sleep on the lead.

Coming off his bogey on five, a 12-hour reset may be just what the doctor ordered for Lowry, and the inevitable Harrington pep-talk could be the catalyst for a blistering 13 holes to capture his first PGA Tour win since that famous Open Championship victory at Portrush back in 2019.


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