Lowry, playing through grief, makes a moving day charge at the Honda Classic

Mark McGowan
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Shane Lowry (Photo by Andrew Redington/Getty Images)

Mark McGowan

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Shane Lowry fired a five-under 65 in the third round of the Honda Classic at PGA National in West Palm Beach, Florida, seeing the Offaly man climb to fourth place on the leaderboard, four strokes behind leader Chris Kirk.

For the second day in succession, Lowry sported green and white ribbons on his cap in honour of his uncle Jimmy Lowry’s beloved Ferbane GAA Club after the longtime club stalwart passed away suddenly on Thursday. Despite wanting to withdraw and travel home, Lowry’s family convinced him to stay and compete and he’s shown tremendous character to play through the grief.

After shooting back-to-back 68s in rounds one and two, Lowry knew that another good round would give him an excellent opportunity to go one better than last year’s solo-second finish. A regulation par at the first was followed by a short birdie miss at two, but after being forced to layup at the third, he’d wedge it to kick-in range to get the round going.

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A 20-footer at the fifth got him to -2 for the day, and after a good par-save from the greenside bunker at the eighth, he-d roll in another mid-range birdie putt at the ninth to make the turn at -3 for the round and seven-under for the tournament.

A slightly overhit approach on the 12th ran into the collection area just over the green, but he bumped his chip into the apron and the line was perfect as his ball hit the pin and dropped, turning a potential five into a very welcome three. He’d carry that momentum to the next, sinking an 18-footer for his fifth birdie of the day, and he’d wedge it to six feet on the next for three birdies on the spin, taking him to solo second on the leaderboard.

A slight miscue on approach to the next would lead to his first bogey of the day, but a good up-and-down from the back bunker on the 15th settled him down again, and a regulation par at the next got him to the 17th at -5 for the day. After birdieing the final leg of the ‘Bear Trap’ in each of the previous two days, with the pin tucked just over the hazard, Lowry pulled his tee-shot and , was a little tentative with the four-foot par putt and missed on the low side.

He’d make amends at the par-5 closing hole, missing the green just to the left in two and after opting to take his putter from the collection area, rolled it to two feet and tapped in for a round of -5, with only Ryan Brehm shooting better.

Speaking after the round, Lowry explained the meaning behind the ribbons and paid tribute to his uncle. “Yeah, my uncle sadly passed away on Thursday morning,” he said. “Yeah, my dad’s brother, unexpected. It’s very sad week for our family. To be honest, I wanted to go home on Thursday when I heard the news. A lot of people talked me out of it.

“I’m here now. I’m trying to play for him and play for his wife and his kids and my cousins and my uncles and my aunts and everyone at home because we’re a very close family and very proud of our name and very proud of where we come from. Green and white is just where he’s from, that’s Ferbane in Offaly, in Ireland, and said I’d wear it. Yeah, hopefully I can go out and make him proud tomorrow. Everyone keeps telling me how proud he was of me over the last number of years, and hopefully I can do him another day proud tomorrow.”

Asked about the chip in on the 11th, the 2019 Open Champion confessed that holing it had been a bonus. “Yeah, it was a bad second shot,” he admitted, “I got down there, and I was just trying to leave myself something inside 10 feet for par. Was rolling it nice all day, so made sure I got it there, and I did. I played it nicely. It was probably going maybe eight feet past or something like that, but that kind of — it was a bit of a brucie bonus. To do well in tournaments on courses like this, you need breaks like that, and thankfully I got that. I kicked on a little bit from there and I struggled towards the end, but it’s not easy out there. It’s hard. Yeah, but I’m happy with my day’s work.”

Earlier in the day, Harrington started the third round at level par and took care of the par 5 third hole to get into red figures for the first time in the tournament. A beautiful wedge into the fourth was followed by a laser-like 7 iron into the fifth, but the putter let him down on both occasions. He’d give a shot back on the long par-3 seventh, but he sank an 18-footer on the next to get back under par.

An uncharacteristically sloppy piece of short game play at the 10th saw him drop another shot, and he’d miss another short putt – this time for par – on the 12th to move to +1 for the day.

He’d reach the par 3 15th – the first of the three-hole ‘Bear Trap’ stretch in need of a bit of good fortune, and a good 6-iron found the heart of the green and the downhill 30-footer found the bottom of the cup for a very welcome birdie-two, and he’d hole another 18-footer for birdie on the par 4 next to get back under par again. He’d close out with two pars to sign for a one-under 69, -1 for the tournament and a tie for 50th.

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