Perhaps the golfing gods will smile upon the honest man.
Shane Lowry’s US Open bid could have been fatally undermined by the calling of a penalty upon himself on Oakmont’s 16th green, his seventh, during the belated playing of round two on Saturday. Instead, the Irishman heads into Sunday whilst holding a two-shot lead in the second major of 2016. The biggest day, plus potentially most high-profile prize of Lowry’s career awaits. He won’t be lacking in support.
The penalty incident – Lowry’s ball moved so slightly upon address before putting – clearly did nothing to blunt the 29-year-old’s ambition. He completed round two in 68 shots before returning on Saturday afternoon to play 14 holes in three under par. Shortly before 9pm, darkness played its hand.
Lowry is five under for the tournament and will return at 7am on Sunday to finish his third round before the business end of a now enthralling event arrives.
“I haven’t felt that comfortable on the golf course for a while,” Lowry admitted. “I’m hitting good shots. Myself and [caddie] Dermot [Byrne] are making good decisions. It is up to us now tomorrow to go out and keep doing what we are doing and not get ahead of ourselves.
“It is an exciting day ahead. I’ve got 22 holes left. If I play as well as I’m playing, God knows where I will be this time tomorrow.
“I’m quite happy that we didn’t have another four holes to play. It’s been a long day but I’m so looking forward to getting out there tomorrow.
“This is exactly where you want to be. I’ve been beating myself up over the last six months trying to get in this position. I’m here now. I might as well enjoy it while I’m here.”
The man lying second, somewhat remarkably, with five holes of his second round to finish is the world No 624 Andrew Landry.
Lowry’s prominence in the 2015 US Open is commonly overlooked. He ultimately tied ninth after a week in which he didn’t score than higher than 71 at Chambers Bay and, crucially, failed to convert a series of putts.
“We all know that this course can jump up and bite you in a split second,” said Lowry. “So yeah, I’m two ahead with 22 holes left but let’s not get ahead of ourselves. These are the best golfers in the world behind me, Dustin Johnson and Jason Day. Sergio [Garcia] played lovely today. I have to go out and do what I’ve been doing all week.”
Lowry is right to acknowledge the quality of those in his slipstream. Lee Westwood, Garcia and Johnson are three from the lead, with the latter offering his first wobbles of the tournament on Saturday afternoon. That trio are yet to win a major, with Garcia laughing off the notion of a monkey on his back when posed by an interviewer. “There’s no monkeys, that’s nonsense,” said the Spaniard. “At the end of the day, the only thing I can do is give myself chances. Play well. And if it happens, it happens.”
Day is six adrift of Lowry and therefore still a valid part of the discussion. Jordan Spieth had the consolation of finishing round three, carding a 70, but at plus four needs something in the realms of the remarkable to successfully defend his title. Perhaps most intriguing is the placing of Branden Grace at one under after a superb third round of 66; the South African suffered late heartbreak at Chambers Bay from a position of controlling the destiny of the US Open.
“I played three holes at four over today with a wedge in my hand from the middle of the fairway and it’s just kind of a bummer,” said Spieth. “You’re not going to be able to do anything at a US Open if you get the wedge opportunities and you play them over par.
“Normally, out of those three, it’s at least one under versus playing four over. That’s five shots right there. I’d have shot 65. So I don’t need to play any different, just hit my wedges a little closer.”
This article was written by Ewan Murray at Oakmont, for theguardian.com on Sunday 19th June 2016 04.01 Europe/Londonguardian.co.uk © Guardian News and Media Limited 2010