Lowry sees a major in his future

Lowry sees a major in his future
 Shane Lowry saves par on the 13th hole during the final round of the 2016 U.S. Open at Oakmont Country Club in Oakmont, Pa. on Sunday, June 19, 2016. (Copyright USGA/Darren Carroll)

Shane Lowry saves par on the 13th hole during the final round of the 2016 U.S. Open at Oakmont Country Club in Oakmont, Pa. on Sunday, June 19, 2016. (Copyright USGA/Darren Carroll)

Nothing warps time and space like the crushing Sunday afternoon pressure of a major.

Just ask Shane Lowry, who focussed little on the rules rumpus involving the USGA and Dustin Johnson and instead gave a frank and honest assessment of his performance in the US Open at Oakmont Country Club on Sunday and how he lost a four-stroke lead to finish three shots behind  on one under par.

“I tried my best to win this thing,” he said as he stood in a dais in the mixed zone after the presentation, spotlights and microphones in his face, trying to make sense out of what had just happend to him.

“It’s difficult to describe the way I felt (on the back nine). 

“My bad holes, they probably got a little bit quick. Everything happened quickly. But that's what happens when you play a few bad holes. They're kind of over before you know it. You’d like to have them back again.”

Lowry wears his heart on his sleeve and as the temperature gauge overheated on the final stretch, he admitted he did himself few favours.

“I was probably a bit hard on myself right then, coming in as well,” he said.  “I think if I had have just relaxed a little bit more, I could have done something a bit better.”

It wasn’t quite the 80 that cost Rory McIlroy the 2011 Masters.  But like the Ulsterman, Lowry had a four-shot lead and lost it as his lack of experience down the stretch in majors was exposed and a more experienced player took advantage.

The highlight of the week for the bearded Clara man will — quite rightly — be his performance on Saturday, when he played 32 holes in three under par to take the lead by two.

He eventually extended it to four shots by picking up two strokes in the last four holes of his delayed third round on Sunday morning to head the field on seven under.

Nobody, not even the amazing athlete that is Johnson, went that deep at Oakmont.

“I've never felt so comfortable on a golf course in my life,” Lowry said of his Saturday (and Sunday morning) exhibition.

“So whatever in the zone is, I was there.”

Had the final round started at 8.30 am, he may have won in a canter.

But given the difficulty of leading a major on the final day, he admitted that having six hours between the end of his third round and the 3.30pm start to his  fourth round, was far from easy.

He said: “Those few hours were very tough. I was quite restless. I tried to go for a kip and could’t get to sleep.

“It wasn’t ideal but that is the way it is.”

 Shane Lowry bites his putter after missing a par putt on the 14th hole during the final round of the 2016 U.S. Open at Oakmont Country Club in Oakmont, Pa. on Sunday, June 19, 2016. (Copyright USGA/Darren Carroll)

Shane Lowry bites his putter after missing a par putt on the 14th hole during the final round of the 2016 U.S. Open at Oakmont Country Club in Oakmont, Pa. on Sunday, June 19, 2016. (Copyright USGA/Darren Carroll)

Admitting that he hit a lot of “okay shots but not enough great shots,” he added: “These are the days you learn from. Dustin Johnson has been in my shoes now a lot of times so he deserves one.

“I will come back from this. I know I will give myself a chance again some time.”

The disappointment will take some time to fade but Lowry can reflect on the fact that had he not three-putted the 14th, 15th and 16th, he’d have had a chance.

“I was hitting okay shots and getting okay results,” he admitted. “I wasn’t doing anything spectacular and anything really bad either. I was just in between.” 

Aware than he might be leading rather than tied after his par at the 13th as Johnson bogeyed the 14th, he said: “To be honest, I was just trying to make pars. It was such a slog out there. I felt like I was hitting good shots just getting nothing out of them. 

“For instance. I know I made a great par save on 13 but I hit a great iron shot in there and it just came up a yard from being pretty close. 

“When I made a great par save on 13, I really thought I was in the tournament. If anything, I was hoping he'd get the one-shot penalty. But that's the way it is. 

“Obviously, he didn't need the extra shot in the end. Of course, it would have been interesting if we were tied at the same score.”

Asked when it slipped away, he said: “The 17th green. I thought, if I birdied 17, I'd give myself a chance at birdieing the last, and Dustin was 4 under in the last, and I was thinking, if he gets penalised a shot and whatever, I could (tie).

“But as I was was walking up onto the green, I saw he hit on 350 yards right down the middle of the fairway.

“Obviously, fair play for Dustin. He's been in my shoes a few times now. I'm happy for him. He's a great guy.

“Him and his brother Austin are two great fellas. He's definitely one of the top players. He's done really well. He deserved it. He played the best golf this week.”

He was also adamant that the rules confusion over whether or not Johnson would be docked a shot after his ball moved on the fifth green was not an issue.

Lowry said: “No, it didn't affect the way I played. If anything, I credit Dustin for playing the way he played on the way in, having that hanging over him, because I probably would have wanted to know straightaway if it was me.

“That actually didn't affect me much at all. I really feel like I let it go today, and it's a great disappointment. 

 Shane Lowry reacts to missing an eagle chip on the 12th hole during the final round of the 2016 U.S. Open at Oakmont Country Club in Oakmont, Pa. on Sunday, June 19, 2016. (Copyright USGA/Darren Carroll)

Shane Lowry reacts to missing an eagle chip on the 12th hole during the final round of the 2016 U.S. Open at Oakmont Country Club in Oakmont, Pa. on Sunday, June 19, 2016. (Copyright USGA/Darren Carroll)

“The more I think about it, the more upset I'm getting. It's one of those that's going to be hard to take. It’s going to be a tough few days.

“But I led by four shots in the tournament going into the final round. I had a lead with five holes to play.

“I'm definitely good enough to win one of these. So I'll get back on the horse in a couple of weeks. 

“Back to Firestone in a few weeks. Looking forward to defending there. And obviously, I've got The Open and the PGA in the next few weeks.

“Just get back to good form and looking forward to the next few weeks where the conditions won't be quite as hard.

“Obviously, second position, I'm not happy. But there's lots of positives to take from this week. 

“It's the toughest test of golf, and this is a true test of golf, and I was right up there for 67 holes. The whole round really. So that's golf. You win some, you lose some.

“It's not easy to get yourself in a position I was in this morning. When I got myself there, I didn’t finish the job off, which is really disappointing.”

Lowry can be proud of his performance, which has pushed him back into the reckoning for a Ryder Cup place. The irony of the late three-putts on Sunday is that he showed for 67 holes that he's a putter to be feared when he's hot. 

Given his determination and grit, it would be foolish to bet against him when he next contends for one of golf's major prizes.