Like the Titan, Atlas, who was punished by the gods and made to support the heavens, Shane Lowry’s single-handed bid to carry the Irish Open on his broad shoulders ended in disappointment at Carton House.
Ironically for an event that has be dogged by poor weather since the start, the sun shone brightly on the hordes that swarmed up the 18th to support him yesterday but the normally happy-go-lucky Offaly man almost felt as if he had let them down after carding what he described as a “brain-dead” 74 to fall a hopeless eight strokes behind leader Joost Luiten of the Netherlands with a round to go.
Following the mass exodus of the tournament’s star names when the cut fell on Friday night, the fans had to make do with glimpses of major winners Rory McIlroy and Graeme McDowell on the driving range.
Paul McGinley was also visible on the premises at times, but with Darren Clarke and Pádraig Harrington already at home, all hopes of an Irish win were pinned on the 2009 champion Lowry.
The touring professional for the 36-hole resort, Lowry had played a blinder both on and off the course until yesterday, when he lost confidence on the greens and made some mental errors that added up to a day to forget.
As it happens, Peter Lawrie leads the Irish challenge in joint 18th on six under thanks to a super 67 he carded in misty, persistent rain, early in the day.
The Dubliner made six birdies in eight holes, sandwiching bogeys at the 10th and 11th between two birdie hat-tricks before finishing with a chip and putt birdie at the last.
“After making the cut with a couple of late birdies, just tried to crawl my way up the leaderboard and give Shane sort of support in the Irish backing,” Lawrie said.
“A birdie at the last always makes it a little bit sweeter, so I’m just delighted to finish with a birdie and get to six under and have a bit of a lie-in tomorrow morning.”
As things turned out, Lowry ended the day in a 10-man log-jam for 21st place on five under par with Rathmore’s Alan Dunbar (69) and Galgorm Castle’s Gareth Shaw (70), two of his former amateur team mates.
The Clara man’s day certainly began brightly when he birdied the second with a pitch to five feet but his failure to birdie the par-five fourth put him under pressyre and bogey at the 394-yard sixth, where he drove into a fairway bunker that should never come into play for a man with his depth of local knowledge, signalled the beginning of the end.
“There is just one place you don’t hit it and I hit it there,” Lowry said of bunkered drive that was followed by a long second, an average chip and a missed six foot putt.
“That was brain-dead really. I made a lot of poor decisions today - mentally I just wasn’t there. I was still hitting decent shots but I missed a few putts and lost a bit of confidence on the greens and that was it really.
“I’d say I was anxious starting but I was also really keen to just get out there and play well. The really disappointing things is that I just didn’t enjoy one bit of it. I should be out there enjoying myself.
“There were a few thousand people as well as friends and family out there watching me and I feel that, not like I have let everyone down, but that if I had shot a decent score I would have had a chance tomorrow.
“It wouldn’t have taken much to shoot two or three under out there.”
After a bogey at the 10th, where he again missed inside six feet for par, Lowry was out of the running when he came up short on the fringe at the par-three 17th, where 1,500 fans packed the stadium grandstand.
Yet while still managed to wave to some pink-jersey wearing pals from the Lightning Bolts seven-a-side rugby team in the crowd, it was a sign of his disappointment that he wished he was with them rather than playing.
“They were having much more craic that I was out there today,” Lowry said. “I nearly wished I was out there with them.”
If Lowry was disappointed, Dunbar and Shaw were quietly pleased with their progress.
After chipping in for an eagle at the last for what was a scrappy 69, Dunbar said: “It’s always nice to finish with an eagle because I didn’t hit the ball great today. It’s on days like today when you are not hitting it so well that it’s important to still shoot a good score and I did that today.”
Shaw only got into the tournament as a late invitation but soared close to the lead on seven under at one stage before bogeys at the 16th and 17th left him tied with Dunbar on five under.
“Two bogeys in the last three holes leaves a bit of a sour taste but it’s still very encouraging to shoot another couple under par on a Saturday in an Irish Open in my first European Tour event,” the 26-year old said. “A top 10 would get me in the French Open next week but just being here is a bonus. If I can climb a few more spots on that leaderboard, it will be good.”
Co Down’s Simon Thornton holed little on the greens but a bogey free 70 left him joint 31st on four under.
“I haven’t putted badly, but they haven’t dropped,” Thornton said. “Hopefully tomorrow will be the day.”
Five strokes cover the top 11 names on the leaderboard with the in-form Dutchman Luiten in pole position to capture a second European Tour title in the space of four weeks, after a flawless six under par 66 gave him a one shot lead going into the final round of the Irish Open.
Clad in a green polo shirt, the 27 year old made six birdies to head the leaderboard by one stroke from Larrazábal, who also went bogey free with a 66
Joint overnight leader Robert Rock, who lost to Lowry in a play-off at Baltray in 2009, is in third position on ten under par after a 71 with former Ryder Cup player Paul Casey a further shot back following a 67.
West Waterford’s Seamus Power shot a one under 71 in the first group of the day, still wondering about the triple bogey seven at the 14th that almost cost him dear on Friday.
Power said: “I struck the ball better than 71 but I had a couple of three-putts. The 14th was a disaster yesterday, hit myself in the foot, which has never happened before.
“It was a shock to the system but I guess being here is better than not playing at all so I will just draw on this, head back to the US next week and get my game ready for the Q-School at the end of the year.”
Belfast’s Damian Mooney, who had an ace on Friday, slipped to 62nd on two over after a 76.
Irish Open after 54 holes
203 J Luiten (Ned) 67 70 66,
204 P Larrazábal (Esp) 69 69 66,
206 R Rock (Eng) 69 66 71,
207 P Casey (Eng) 68 72 67, S Henry (Sco) 74 64 69,
208 O Floren (Swe) 66 71 71, A Quiros (Esp) 72 68 68, P Whiteford (Sco) 71 68 69, R Santos (Por) 71 66 71, J Olazábal (Esp) 68 69 71, R Jacquelin (Fra) 69 69 70,
209 F Andersson Hed (Swe) 70 71 68, R Cabrera-Bello (Esp) 69 70 70, P Uihlein (USA) 67 68 74, A Cañizares (Esp) 71 69 69, J Donaldson (Wal) 69 71 69, T Björn (Den) 68 71 70,
210 A Hansen (Den) 69 70 71, Peter Lawrie (Irl) 72 71 67, R Sterne (RSA) 73 70 67,
211 D Gaunt (Aus) 71 68 72, A Dodt (Aus) 68 74 69, J Lara (Esp) 71 70 70, A Sullivan (Eng) 72 72 67, M Warren (Sco) 69 75 67, G Shaw (Nir) 73 68 70, J Walters (RSA) 72 69 70, S Lowry (Irl) 67 70 74, A Dunbar (Nir) 70 72 69, A Kaleka (Fra) 72 68 71,
212 B Rumford (Aus) 72 71 69, D Willett (Eng) 73 68 71, G Havret (Fra) 74 70 68, J Campillo (Esp) 72 68 72, S Thornton (Irl) 69 73 70,
213 R Bland (Eng) 71 72 70, G Mulroy (RSA) 69 75 69, R Fisher (Eng) 73 70 70, M Ilonen (Fin) 70 73 70, S Kjeldsen (Den) 71 70 72, A Snobeck (Fra) 71 71 71,
214 Paul Lawrie (Sco) 71 70 73, O Fisher (Eng) 71 70 73, S Dodd (Wal) 71 70 73, E Grillo (Arg) 73 67 74, E Pepperell (Eng) 71 69 74, S Benson (Eng) 73 71 70,
215 A Hartø (Den) 70 72 73, S Power (Irl) 69 75 71, C Paisley (Eng) 69 72 74, M Hoey (Nir) 67 76 72, D Drysdale (Sco) 72 71 72, L Jensen (Den) 72 71 72, S Gallacher (Sco) 72 70 73, P Sjöland (Swe) 73 70 72,
216 F Molinari (Ita) 73 67 76, J Morrison (Eng) 73 70 73, G Storm (Eng) 69 73 74,
217 S Little (Eng) 71 72 74, J Gonnet (Fra) 67 75 75, R Derksen (Ned) 73 71 73,
218 D Mooney (Nir) 74 68 76, M Kieffer (Ger) 70 73 75, R Wattel (Fra) 74 70 74, E De La Riva (Esp) 73 71 74, H Wen-Yi (Chn) 77 67 74,
219 C Del Moral (Esp) 72 72 75, M Baldwin (Eng) 71 73 75, D Howell (Eng) 70 72 77, C Lloyd (Eng) 72 71 76,
220 C Macaulay (Sco) 73 71 76, R Finch (Eng) 71 71 78
Final round tee times
07:40 Finch, Macaulay,
07:49 Lloyd, Howell,
07:58 Baldwin, Del Moral,
08:07 Kieffer, Mooney,
08:16 De la Riva, Wattel,
08:25 Huang, Gonnet,
08:34 Little, Derksen,
08:43 F Molinari, Storm,
08:57 Paisley, Morrison,
09:06 Harto, Gallacher,
09:15 Drysdale, Hoey,
09:24 Sjoland, Jensen,
09:33 Power, Pepperell,
09:42 Grillo, Dodd,
09:51 Paul Lawrie, Fisher,
10:05 Benson, Kjeldsen,
10:14 Snobeck, Fisher,
10:23 Bland, Ilonen,
10:32 Mulroy, Campillo,
10:41 Willett, Thornton,
10:50 Rumford, Havret,
10:59 Gaunt, Lowry,
11:13 Kaleka, Walters,
11:22 Shaw, Lara,
11:31 Dunbar, Dodt,
11:40 Warren, Sullivan,
11:49 Sterne, Hansen,
11:58 Peter Lawrie, Uihlein,
12:07 Bjorn, Cabrera-Bello,
12:21 Cañizares, Donaldson,
12:30 Andersson Hed, Olazábal,
12:39 Santos, Floren,
12:48 Whiteford, Jacquelin,
12:57 Quiros, Henry,
13:06 Casey, Rock,
13:15 Larrazábal, Luiten.