Lowry builds momentum with 68 as Scheffler seizes control

Ronan MacNamara

Shane Lowry (Photo by Andrew Redington/Getty Images)

Ronan MacNamara

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Shane Lowry had to wait until Saturday afternoon to find out if he had made the cut, but it was worth it as he shot a third round 68 at the PLAYERS Championship.

Lowry finished strongly with three birdies on his back nine to climb to two-under for the championship.

The Clara native will play no part in the drama at the top of the leaderboard another late surge from Scottie Scheffler (-14) saw him take control at TPC Sawgrass as he moved two clear of Min Woo Lee (-12) after a 65.

Lee was unlucky to drop a shot on 18 for the third day in a row and a five-over total for holes 17 and 18 so far has told the tale of the tape and might prove costly on Sunday night.

Scheffler started like a house on fire with an opening birdie and then pitched in for an eagle on the par-5 2nd.

The Masters champion birdied five and then recovered from a momentary lapse on seven with back-to-back birdies to turn ominously in 31.

A quiet back nine by his standards ended on a high yet again as he birdied two of his last three holes to grab the tournament by the scruff of the neck as he looks to return to world number one.

“Yeah, I played really good today. I got off to a nice start, which is always good. Kept it rolling from there, gave myself a lot of looks. Good finish as well.

“So overall very solid day, only one bogey, which is really good around this golf course.

“Thoughts about tomorrow, I think the conditions are going to be pretty tough. From what I saw, it’s going to be pretty gusty winds tomorrow in the afternoon, so it should be a good challenge.”

It’s the latest chapter of this to and fro between Scheffler, Rory McIlroy and current standard setter, Jon Rahm at the top of the world rankings but the Texan is focusing on glory, not ranking.

“I think the ranking is just an algorithm. For me, I would much rather win the tournament than get back to No. 1 in the world. So that will be my focus going into tomorrow is just going out and having a solid round of golf, and the rankings will be the rankings.

“It’s tough to rank professional golf, and the OWGR has done a good job of that over long period of time, but at the end of the day for me, it’s just an algorithm, and I’m going to go out there tomorrow and try and win the golf tournament.”

Australian ace Lee will enter new territory as he bids for the biggest win of his career and to take the next step into the elite level.

The 24-year-old was flawless until his par attempt lipped out on 18, but he more than provided his fair share of fireworks in his third round 66 that included five birdies and a hole-out eagle on the par-4 1st.

“Piped my driver down there. I had, I think, 112 in, something like that. It might have been less; actually that might have been in yards. I had a 55, a little bit on the downslope, and my caddie Stew and I were in between hitting a 50 and 55, and luckily I thinned a nice 55 in there and one-hopped and back-spun in the hole. So it wasn’t a perfect shot but it looked good on TV. I saw it just before I — I won’t say I thinned it; keep it between us.”

The former Scottish Open winner’s eagle set the tone for a dramatic day as Aaron Rai became the first Englishman to have a hole in one on the 17th before Tom Hoge set a new course record at TPC Sawgrass with a sublime 62.

Should Scheffler and Lee slip up on Sunday there are plenty lying in wait including Lee’s compatriot Cameron Davis on -10, Tommy Fleetwood, Aaron Rai, Chad Ramey and Christiaan Bezuidenhout (all -9) and the South African will feel he should be three shots better off having passed up three good birdie chances coming home.

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