There were clear sense of excitement in Shane Lowry’s voice in declaring his intent in making himself heard over the final round of the 100th PGA Championship.
Lowry once again in his career has the chance to succeed at the game’s highest level after brilliantly holing an 11-foot birdie putt at his final hole in a third day 69 to move to eight-under par on the Bellerive course in suburban St. Louis.
The effort, in continuing sauna-like conditions, sees Lowry head to the final round of the year’s final major, trailing just four shots behind reigning double U.S. Open winning Brooks Koepka.
Koepka had been four shots in front of his rivals standing on the 14th tee when he dropped the first shot of his round but then was forced to take a penalty drop when he tee shot at the next, the par-4 15th, came to rest against the base of a large tree.
The American, with his Northern Irish born caddy, walked off with a second straight bogey in an eventual round of 66 to open the door for his rivals to lead by just two shots at 12-under par.
Australia’s Adam Scott (65) is next best at 10-under par and with three players – Spain’s Jon Rahm (66) and the American duo of Rickie Fowler (69) and first and second day leader, Gary Woodland (71).
Lowry enjoys a share of sixth place with five others including four-time PGA winner Tiger Woods (66), Stewart Cink (66), Jason Day (67), Justin Thomas (68) and Charl Schwartzel (69).
In fact, there are 14 players within five shots of the lead with anyone capable of emerging from the pack to claim the gleaming Rodman Wanamaker trophy.
Lowry’s been in this situation previously having led by a shot heading into the final round of the 2016 U.S. Open at Oakmont only to shoot a final round 76 and lose by three strokes to American Dustin Johnson.
“I said to Alan (his brother and caddy) walking into 18, I said make birdie here, and we have a right chance tomorrow,” said Lowry.
“So that’s what it is. I feel like I’m where I want to be. I said early on in the week, late single digits, and going into tomorrow, we’ll be golden, and it is. I’m very excited for it. It’s great to have your brother on the bag, your dad out there watching, and you’re going and competing in the final round of a Major. It doesn’t get much better.”
“So, I’m looking forward to it.”
Lowry was among half the field who had to return to the course at 7am local time Saturday to complete his second round after an electrical storm eventually forced a suspension to play late on Friday and he made the most of the remaining handful of holes he had to play in posting a round of a six-under par 64 for a seven-under par tally to trail just three shots adrift of Woodland.
Lowry and his brother returned to their hotel for a well-earned shower before their 1.16pm local time start to the third round but with Lowry stalling in dropping a shot at the fourth ahead of just two outward nine birdies at the sixth and ninth holes.
It was much the same scenario over the inward half with Lowry bogeying the 13th, sandwiched between seven pars from his 10th hole to the 17th and then finally some joy with an all-important ‘3’ at his 54th hole, and a birdie that could easily be the key to Lowry becoming the second Irishman to lift the Rodman Wanamaker Trophy on the 10th anniversary of Padraig Harrington’s 2008 Oakland Hills.
“I just have to play my own game and just be patient as patience is everything,” he said.
“Yes, it is a course you make birdies, but I just think this afternoon there’s a couple of big numbers as well. So, yeah, look, I didn’t feel like I had my A game out there this afternoon, but I did well to kind of shoot the score I did. And hopefully I go out and play decent tomorrow and see what happens.”
“I’m right where I want to be. Of course I’m very satisfied. I’m going to be looking forward to relaxing this evening, and late tee time tomorrow in a Sunday at a Major is where I want to be. I’ve been in this position before, so I know what it’s about. Hopefully, I can go out and do a better job this time than I did the last time.”
“I feel like the first two days, the two rounds, I putted very well. I’m just hitting lovely iron shots. My distance control is very good, and a couple of slip-ups on the back nine, a couple maybe there a bit tired errors, I think, more than anything else.”
“But, yeah, I feel like my iron play is pretty good this week, and my distance is always good. The greens are very soft. It’s easier than what it could be out there, but you still have to hit the shots, and I feel like I’m doing that this week.”
Lowry was then asked if he can get more aggressive on the Bellerive course than he has been over the three rounds.
“I don’t know. I’m not going to stand and aim at every flag tomorrow, because that would be just stupid,” he said.
“I’m just going to go out, and when I get a number into a green where I have a good flow, then I’ll go for it and try to make birdies, like today. The disappointing part was not birdieing the two par 5s, especially with 17 being so far up, it’s the worst drive I hit all week. It’s a drive where, if you hit the fairway, it’s a gimme birdie. So, yeah, the par 5s, you make birdies there and sneak a few here and there.”
“Look, Majors aren’t easy wins. I know Brooks is used to being up there and he has two, but it’s not easy winning them. There’s going to be a few changes on the leaderboard tomorrow, and hopefully I’ll have something to say about it.”
Rory McIlroy heads into the final round sharing 45th place at two-under par and having slipped 20 places following his third round 71.
McIlroy, starting the third round from the 10th, birdied his opening two holes but it all turned pear-shaped when he doubled the par-4 12th after sending a 326-yard drive well left into the tree line.
He birdied the 14th and then in playing the inward half or the opening nine on the scorecard McIlroy again struggled, bogeying his 10th, birdiing the 11th but dropping further shots at 13 and 16.
McIlroy made his way to the scorer’s room with a 71 and his highest round of the three days.
He was asked for a comment and responded: “Ahh. will talk to you tomorrow”.
There ensured after his round a serious-looking discussion involving McIlroy’s coach, Michael Bannon, caddy Harry Diamond and manager, Sean O’Flaherty. McIlroy himself was not a party to the discusson.
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