Shane Lowry might have missed a great chance to win in the US again with a poor 18 holes in the middle of his Waste Management Phoenix Open weekend. But the two he made in front of 20,00 U-S-A screaming American fans at the signature 16th proved to be the moment of the week for the strapping Clara lad.
If they'd hoped to intimidate the pride of Co Offaly, they picked the wrong man. Lowry made a birdie at the signature par-three on Thursday, a par on Friday and a bogey on Saturday, when he was booed by the beer-fuelled crowd who'd pack the stands and the sky boxes.
But on Sunday he was determined to go out on a high and made another birdie— his fifth in his last seven holes — en route to a final round 68 and share of sixth behind Hideki Matsuyama of Japan, who beat Rickie Fowler with a par at fourth extra hole to lift his second PGA Tour title
It was a great TV moment with Lowry responding to chants of U-S-A, U-S-A as he hulked over a 15 footer by caressing his Srixon towards the hole before daring to turn away, cupping his hand to his ear in expectation, when the ball was four feet short of the target.
For a moment it appeared that it might come up short, or miss left and Lowry nervously peeked back to see it would drop before it caught the side door and eventually fell into the hole to a huge roar.
His “let me hear you” gesture brought back memories of Patrick Reed’s shushing finger on the final day of the Ryder Cup at Gleneagles two years ago.
On that occasion, the American was playing up to his bad boy image. But it’s clear that America has warmed to Lowry with his ready smile and deceptively cuddly physique and half expects to see the WGC Bridgestone Invitational winner in Minnesota in September.
Darren Clarke, no doubt, was playing close attention.
“I was going along the same as I was just struggling yesterday but I managed to kick it into gear after I holed a nice putt on the 12th for birdie and from there I managed to make a few on the way in, which was nice,” said Lowry of his weekend and his final round.
“On the 16th we had 173 and you are so pumped up it was only a nice nine-iron for me. It was the best shot I hit in there all week, just right of the target and the green slopes right to left so I got it down there to about 15 feet.
“I was just happy to see the ball going towards the middle of the green. You can see I am quite relieved. Then my putt, just as I was settling over it, I heard the crowd in the grandstand chanting USA so that’s what I gave it a bit of that and hopefully I get to do that in September again.”
Lowry is clearly growing in confidence and it was a shame he let the tournament ebb away on Saturday after he had made three early birdies to move into the lead.
Four bogeys in an eight holes stretch from the ninth killed his title challenge and he continued in the same venue last night, dropping two more shots early in the day to scupper all hopes of a Sunday title charge.
After scrambling for pars at the first two holes and then missing an eight footer for birdie at the third, he missed a three footer for par at the par-three fourth and then bogeyed the fifth when he bunkered his approach.
He bounced back straight away by holing a 33 footer for a birdie three at the sixth and while he had to work for pars to turn in one over and then bogeyed the 11th following an average chip, he birdied the 200-yard 12th from 14 feet and came alive.
It was Lowry’s sixth birdie two of the week and moved him to tied 21st with six holes to play as the Matsuyama and Fowler battled it out for the title.
After another birdie at the par-five 13th, the world No 21 birdied the 15th, 16th and 17th with his second two of the week at the signature par-three giving everyone a taste of what Lowry might be capable of if he’s put under pressure in this year’s Ryder Cup at Hazeltine.
Few players love a party as much as Lowry and he’s plainly determined to strut his stuff for Darren Clarke on the Ryder Cup stage.
If he can handle Phoenix, he can handle most things.
Lowry said: “Yesterday afternoon was just wild. I don’t know how to describe it. It was like a music festival or something. It definitely wasn’t like a golf tournament. It’s amazing.
“I said to Dermot walking around today, to say you have played in front of 200,000 people is pretty cool. It’s been a great week and I week won’t be missing again.”
Lowry is now looking forward to this week’s AT&T Pebble Beach Pro-Am where he will be joined by Pádraig Harrington and Paul Dunne, both of whom missed the cut in Scottsdale
Lowry is certainly feeling good about his chances of clocking up a victory.
“I feel like my game is good. I finished nicely which is going to give me a bit of momentum,” he told Sky Sports.
"I was 13th last week, hopefully I get a decent Top 10 this week and kick on and you never know where I could be standing this time next Sunday.”
As for the Waste Management Open finale, it was a thriller with Fowler letting the chance to a fifth worldwide win in nine months slip from his fingers into a watery grave both in regulation and sudden death.
According to reports:
The world No 4 hit two balls into the water on the par-4 17th hole to give Matsuyama his second PGA Tour win.
After letting a two-shot lead slip away on the 317-yard 17th hole in regulation when he blasted a driver through the green and into the water, Fowler pulled a 5-wood into the lake on the fourth hole of a playoff to set up the deciding bogey.
Matsuyama birdied the hole in regulation and two-putted for par from 6 feet in the playoff.
Fowler forced the playoff with a 10-foot birdie putt on the par-4 18th after Matsuyama made an 18-footer. They each shot 4-under 67 to finish at 14-under 270.
The playoff was just as dramatic in front of another big crowd at TPC Scottsdale's Stadium Course on a sunny day with the temperature in the high 70s.
On the par-4 10th on the third extra hole, Fowler saved par with a 12-foot putt after driving into the left rough and skulling his approach long and right. Matsuyama made a 5-footer to extend the playoff.
They played the 18th hole twice to open overtime. On the first extra hole, Fowler chipped to a foot to set up a par after leaving his wedge approach short and right. Matsuyama rolled his 25-foot putt inside a foot. On the second playoff hole, Matsuyama matched Fowler's 15-foot birdie putt to extend it.
Matsuyama won the 2014 Memorial for his only other PGA TOUR title, beating Kevin Na on the first extra hole. The 23-year-old Japanese player tied for second last year in Scottsdale, a stroke behind Brooks Koepka.
Fowler, who is just a major win short of inclusion in a potential Big Four rivalry with Jordan Spieth, Jason Day and Rory McIlroy (who went back to world No 3) won THE PLAYERS Championship, the Scottish Open and the Deutsche Bank Championship before outshining Spieth and McIlroy two weeks ago in Abu Dhabi.
Fowler chipped in from 50 feet for birdie on the par-4 10th to take the lead and added birdies on the par-5 13th and 15th holes to pull two shots ahead. He missed a 10-foot birdie putt on the par-3 16th, the tournament's signature stadium hole, before giving Matsuyama a chance with the aggressive tee shot on 17 that went nearly 360 yards.
The crowd of 65,330 Sunday pushed the week total to a record 618,365, shattering the mark of 564,368 set last year. The event broke its own golf record Saturday at 201,003 after drawing a Friday-record 160,415.
Harris English shot a 66 to tie for third at 12 under.
Third-round leader Danny Lee had a 73 to drop to fourth at 11 under. The South Korean-born New Zealander began the day three strokes ahead of playing partners Fowler and Matsuyama.
Phil Mickelson followed his third-round 65 with a 71 to tie for 11th at 8 under. The 45-year-old former Arizona State won the event in 1996, 2005 and 2013.