“We absolutely finished strong” McIlroy and Lowry keep team hopes alive

Ronan MacNamara

Shane Lowry of Ireland and Rory McIlroy (Photo by Jonathan Bachman/Getty Images)

Ronan MacNamara

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Three successive birdies around the turn kickstarted Rory McIlroy and Shane Lowry’s third round as they maintained their challenge at the Zurich Classic of New Orleans.

In the four ball format, the Ryder Cup pair managed just two birdies in their opening six holes to fall from a share of the lead back into the pack.

A McIlroy two at the par-3 9th sparked things into life and a back nine of 31 gave them a round of 64 to lie just two shots behind leaders Zac Blair and Patrick Fishburn at TPC Louisiana.

“We absolutely finished strong,” said McIlroy.

“It was a tricky day. The wind was blowing. We had some chances early on that we didn’t take advantage of.

“We birdied the two par-fives on the front nine, and then we definitely got it going around the turn.

“I hit a lovely shot into nine and was able to convert that, and I think that gave us some really good momentum going into the back nine.”

McIlroy’s name is on the card for the birdies on 10, 11, 13, 16 and 18 while Lowry was full of admiration for the world number two who found his best stuff when the team needed it.

“I think that six-iron he hit into nine and he rolled the putt got us going, and from there on in, it was Rory McIlroy at his best, and it was a joy to watch,” Lowry enthused.

McIlroy, who is making his debut in the event stressed the importance of their finish which lifted them to -21.

“I can’t wait,” he said. “I think to make those birdies coming in and to only be two behind, alternate shot is a tough format, and yeah, you want to be within a couple strokes of the lead.

“I thought it was important to finish the way we did, and excited to have a chance to win tomorrow.”

Conditions are set to be trickier for the final round foursomes and the duo hope their experience of playing together all the way back to their amateur days for Ireland and their close friendship can help them over the line on Sunday.

“Birdies were a little harder to come by today than they were on Thursday in the better ball format,” McIlroy said.

“I think today was about staying patient, knowing that the course was going to present some opportunities, especially on that back nine.

“I think our patience was rewarded with the chances that we gave ourselves, and rolled a couple of putts in on the back and kept ourselves in it.”

“I think we know what makes the other one tick in some ways,” McIlroy added. “We’ve known each other for 25 years. So yeah, I think so. I think it’s a friend, and he tries to keep me positive at times. I have to try to keep him positive at times, and I’d say it’s worked really well for the first three days.”

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