Shane Lowry might be two shots behind Jim Furyk and Justin Rose but he know that he has a golden oppoprtunity to win the WGC-Bridgestone Invitational in Akron on Sunday and take his game to the next level.
A win would catapult Lowry from 48th to an estimated 20th in the world and after carding an effortless looking 67 in round three to sit alone in third on seven under, the 28 year old knows what he has to do.
“I’m pretty happy,” he said, despite narrowly missing a 12 footer for bridie at the last and then watching Furyk hole an 11-footer from the fringe for par to remain in the lead with Rose (63) on nine under.
Birdies at the second, third, 11th and 12th put Lowry right in the mix and while he bogeyed the 13th and 14th after missing the fairway both times, he made a fine birdie four at th 16th only to watch chances on the last two holes fail to drpp.
"I had a couple of slip ups on the back nine, but all in all I played quite nicely. I gave myself a couple of chances coming in and it would have been nice to hole that one on the last. But I’m right where I want to be going into tomorrow.
"I'm looking forward to it. It is a big event, a chance of going out there and doing something special. I’m looking forward to it. If I go out and play like I did today, you never know what might happen tomorrow.”
Lowry is a different animal these days and he just needs a win or two to get the confidence boost he really needs to become a world star.
This week will seal his PGA Tour card for sure and win or lose on Sunday, he can go to the USPGA with a genuine chance of competing for victory there too.
His birdies at the 11th and 12th—which got him to within one of the lead—showed he can hole putts and hit iron shots close. But he can do other things well too.
His driving is a huge advantage these days as he’s not just straight but very long thanks to his improved fitness and better posture, which has led to a better strike.
His short game remains amongst the best in the world, as he showed on the 16th, where he left himself 95-yard lob wedge after two great shots and spun the ball back to four feet.
“I hit a great drive down there—you can’t got for it in two—and a perfect lay up,” he said. "We were really diligent with the yardage we were trying to leave outselves and it was a perfect number. I just hit a lob wedge in there and left myself a very easy putt for birdie again.”
His manufactuered, 150 yard chip and run from the trees to 12 feet at the 18th had him grinning at his caddie Dermot Byrne.
Strategy? He’s been relaxed and aggressive this week, using the driver liberally. And playing in the penultimate group with Aussie Steven Bowditch could be a blessing in disguise.
“Mostly I am just trying to go out and shoot the best that I can,” he said of what he thinks about when he’s contenting.
“Obviously this is a massive tournament and it is going to be a big day for me tomorrow. Going out in contention here is obviously a lot different that going to in contention in a smaller event at home.
"But each time I go out, I try to hit the first tee shot down the middle of the fairway and take it from there.
"It would hacve been nice if that one had gone in at the last but I’m right were I want to be going into tomorrow, second last group out, a couple behind the leader so, I am looking forward to it.
"I thought I was quite unlucky on 15, hit a lovely five iron there, probably a yard left of being perfect. And a great shot into 16, a good shot into 17 and a good shot into 18 as well. I have the ball under control and I am feeling good about my game. If I can hole a few putts tomorrow, you never know.”
The top 10 are covered by just fie shots but the leaders look strong.
Rose, for instance, reeled in Furyk courtesy of a sizzling seven under par bogey free round of 63.
The Englishman holed a massive 38ft putt on the closing hole for his seventh birdie of the day, signing off a superb round in style as he moved to nine under par for the tournament at Firestone Country Club.
American Furyk holed a significant putt of his own on the last – a testing 11ft par save – to ensure he kept a share of the lead with a one under par round of 69.
Englishman Ian Poulter surged through the field with a round of 65 to sit a further two shots back on five under par, sharing fourth position with Sweden’s Henrik Stenson (68), Australia Steven Bowditch (63) and American Bubba Watson (69).
Northern Ireland’s Graeme McDowell posted a round of 69 to share eighth place on four under par, alongside Brooks Koepka (68), the 2014 European Tour Rookie of the Year, and American Robert Streb (68).
Padraig Harrington had three three-putts in a 74 to slip to tied 63rd on eight over
“There’s only been two bogey-free rounds all week and any time you keep it clean like that, it really helps your score, obviously,” Rose said. “I think mentally it’s great too."
Furyk added: “I felt pretty good about the round all in all. It was kind of two different nines, to be honest with you. I felt like I struck the ball pretty good on the front. I drove the ball beautifully. I hit a lot of fairways and had opportunities, but didn’t knock in some putts that I probably could have or should have.
"And felt like the front nine could have been better. But then the back nine, I missed a bunch of fairways. I think, when I finally did hit one on 18, I was in a divot and an awful lie. Finally hit a fairway and still couldn’t make a good swing at it.
"I really just kind of gutted it out and ground it out and made the best I could of the back nine. I really think I scored well to shoot even par and kind of held myself in the golf tournament."
Web.com Tour — West Waterford's Seamus Power fired seven birdies in a six under 65 to haul himself into contention for the Digital Ally Open in Kansas.
He moved up 23 places to tied eighth on 14 under par at Nicklaus GC at LionsGate and is six strokes behind Martin Piller (66), who leads by two on 20 under from Darron Stiles (63) and Shane Bertsch (68). Scores