Augusta is calling Shane Lowry. How else could you explain how a rookie from Augusta State birdied the legendary 18th at Pebble Beach from the rocks to put the Clara man into the WGC-Accenture Match Play by just two ten-thousandths of a world ranking point.
Take a bow Patrick Reed, a 22-year old rookie from Texas whose favourite team is the Fighting Irish of Notre Dame, for the Houdini-like escape that denied Sweden’s Fredrick Jacobson the solo seventh finish he needed to overtake Lowry and snatch the last automatic place in the field for next week’s $8.75m World Golf Championship in Tucson.
Ranked 64th in the world and holding down the last qualifying spot for Arizona, Lowry was relegated to 65th when Richard Sterne won the Joburg Open earlier in the day.
With Phil Mickelson announcing in California that he is not playing the Accenture Match Play due to his children’s spring break, Lowry would still take the 64th and final place in Tucson providing one of more than a dozen players with a mathematical chance of overtaking him via the Pebble Beach Pro-Am did not get the results they needed.
Jacobson was not the only threat to Lowry, but the Swede was the most dangerous as he needed to finish solo seventh or better to pass the 2009 Irish Open winner.
While Brandt Snedeker eventually won the tournament by two strokes, Lowry was under threat from eventual runner up Chris Kirk, who could also have passed him with a victory.
Then there was Jimmy Walker, who needed solo second, and Kevin Stadler, who needed to win. In the end they tied for third.
As the evening drew to a close it was clear that Jacobson was going to be the dangerman.
Tied for 11th entering the final round, the Swede made six birdies in 13 holes to move into the top four before a bogey at the 15th saw him finish sixth in the clubhouse on 12 under after a 67.
If he’d finished there, he would have qualified for Tucson with ease but then came the late drama.
Jason Day birdied the last to relegate Jacobson to seventh on his own. That would still have been enough to qualify for Tucson but luckily for Lowry, it was not to be.
When Retief Goosen failed to make birdie at the last to tie with Jacobson, Lowry needed Q-School graduate Reed to birdie the last and tie with Jacobson, robbing him of the world ranking points he needed to sneak into the Match Play field.
When Reed drove left onto the rocks, Lowry’s fate appeared sealed. But the two-time NCAA team champion with Augusta State hit a 124 yard recovery back to the fairway.
Left with just 128 yards to the pin, he knocked his third shot to just 11 feet and rolled in the putt.
Lowry finished the week ranked 66th with 1.9801 ranking points compared to 67th ranked Jacobson’s 1.9799 - a miniscule 0.0002 points separating them.
The Offaly man can now dream of winning enough world ranking points to qualify for the Masters by making the world’s top 50 by the end of March.
While he had high hopes of getting a sponsors invite for the Honda Classic through stablemate and defending champion McIlroy, it looks as though he may have to beat his former Irish amateur team mate and make a run in the Match Play to secure his debut at Augusta National.
The field for Tucson can change between now and then and Lowry could end up playing world No 2 Tiger Woods or a player further down the rankings, depending on withdrawals.
For now he can raise a toast to Reed, who celebrated his honeymoon with wife and caddie Justine Karain last December by taking a cruise to Mexico, Jamaica and Grand Cayman.
To keep his game sharp, he planned to hit balls from a mat into the ocean. Fortunately for Lowry, he didn’t find H2O this time.
As for Snedeker, the American moved ahead of Justin Rose to fourth in the world when he closed with a seven-under-par 65 to win by two shots from Kirk on 19 under par.
Runner up to Tiger Woods and Phil Mickelson in his last two starts, he took control with an eagle on the second hole and never looked back.
It was his sixth PGA Tour win but as he pointed out afterwards, Majors are now his goal.