Shane Lowry played his last six holes in a blistering five-under par to give himself a chance of turning his trying season on its head in the RBC Canadian Open at Glen Abbey.
Ranked 172nd in the FedEx Cup standings with only the top 125 keeping their cards after the Wyndham Championship in just over three weeks' time, Lowry's hot finish for a four-under 68 could be just the turnaround he needs.
It all looked to be going pear-shaped yet again for the affable Offaly man (31) when he followed a birdie at the par-five second with bogeys at the fourth, seventh and eighth.
But he birdied the ninth from nine feet and with three par-fives on the back nine, he took advantage.
After a birdie four at the 13th, he made a two at the short 15th and hit a 189-yard approach to three feet to set up an eagle three at the 16th before finishing with a birdie at the last.
"Obviously I'm very happy after what happened on the front nine," Lowry told Sky Sports after moving up to tied 13th on 11-under par.
He's six shots behind leaders Dustin Johnson (65), Ben An (66), Kevin Tway (68) and Whee Kim (67) who lead by four shots from Hudson Swafford (67) and Rory Sabbatini (68) on 17-under.
But he's still in with a chance of a big finish with a low final round and he sounded upbeat after following his excellent 67 on Friday with another good round.
"We got a bad shower of rain on three and I missed a couple of putts on seven and eight. But I fought back very well. I am very proud of myself today. I am happy with that."
Lowry needs to win another 213 FedEx Cup points to make the top 125 and he knows that a top-five finish this week could be just the boost he needs heading to the Barracuda Championship in Reno and the US PGA in St Louis before he gets to the Wyndham Championship.
With his brother Alan, an accountant, taking a few weeks holiday and some extra time off work to carry his bag after his split with caddie Dermot Byrne at The Open, the change appears to be working.
"He's doing great," Lowry said with a grin. "I said to him walking down 10 or 11, we've three par-fives in the last six holes so I can fight back and try and shoot under par and I did. I hit some great shots on the way in."
Lowry is still at a loss to explain how he finds himself so far down the FedEx Cup rankings but while a return to Europe would hardly be a disaster, he'd like to have the option of continuing to make big bucks in the US.
"It's been a rough year so far," said Lowry, who hit his tee shot 372 yards at the 504-yard 18th and two-putted from 18 feet after leaving himself just 124 yards for his second.
"The front nine... that's the way my year has been. But I did something on the back nine today and hopefully I can do something on tomorrow and you never know, sneak an oul top-five or something really good could even contend at the end of the day."
While Dustin Johnson has his brother AJ on his bag, Lowry is not tempted to make his brother change careers now.
"No, Alan is doing four weeks for me and then he's due back to work," Lowry said. "I am sure if his boss is watching, I am very thankful to him for giving Alan the time off to be able to do this for me.
"We've enjoyed this week. We're having a great time and my golf is showing it as well."
It was also a great day for Graeme McDowell, who drove the ball far better than on Friday and improved by five strokes, carding a bogey-free, five-under 67 to move up to tied 21st, a shot behind Lowry on 10-under.
McDowell is also in trouble in the FedEx Cup standings at 151st but a good Sunday could give him hope that he can save his card.
Symetra Tour - Leona and Stephanie in the mix
The Fuccillo Kia Classic of NY has been reduced to a 36-hole event with Leona Maguire and Stephanie Meadow in contention.
Leona opened with a three-under 68 and is tied for 10th place with Stephanie four-under after 13 holes of her weather-delayed first round and tied for fourth.
Kendall Dye leads on six under after 16 holes of her opening round with Maia Schechter the clubhouse leader after a 66, tied for second with Erica Popson.
Jimenez leads Senior Open; McGinley just four back
Paul McGinley shot a level par 72 to share 11th place, four shots behind Miguel Angel Jiménez in the Senior Open at St Andrews.
The Spaniard will take a two-stroke lead over Tom Pernice Jnr and Kirk Triplett, Canadian Stephen Ames and the defending champion Bernhard Langer, of Germany into the final round on the Old Course after he shot a 72 in blustery winds.
“Conditions were difficult today, brutal,” said Jiménez. “It’s tough in this wind. You could see the scores, people got to nine under and ten under but then made bogeys. It’s not easy.
“I was ten under par after birdies on the 12th and 14th, then bogeyed and made three pars. I missed a birdie on the 15th by rushing myself, but that’s golf.
“I like this tournament and, of course, I like St Andrews. I would love to win. I hope I can hold the trophy, I would love to. Tomorrow is going to be a tough day. It’s going to be hard and there are some top players there, all playing very well. Whoever has the most patience in these conditions will win.”
Langer, who won a record tenth Senior Major Championship at last year’s Senior Open at Royal Porthcawl, bogeyed the 18thhole to sign for a round of 73, one over par, and a seven under par total.
“You have to bring a good attitude, whether you’re chasing or leading,” said Langer. “This golf course changes so dramatically when there’s wind, when you get rain on top of it, it’s going to be even harder.”
Tom Watson remained in the hunt for a fourth Senior Open title after also carding a one over par round. The 68-year-old delighted the crowds at St Andrews with an eagle on the par five fifth hole, and birdie on the sixth, but dropped four shots on the last five holes to settle for a 73 and a six under par total
“The wind blew hard today, and it was a tough inward nine,” said Watson. “I made some mistakes and I paid the penalty for them. But it’s good to be in this position; I wish I had just been a couple of shots lower.
“Right now, I’m in a bunch just behind the leaders and I’m going to have to play some really good golf tomorrow to come out in front.”
Watson shares sixth place with compatriots Tom Lehman and Scott McCarron, and Thai pair Prayad Marksaeng and Thaworn Wiratchant.
Des Smyth is tied for 69th on six-over after a 77.
Move in wrong direction for Irish in Austria
Cormac Sharvin doubled the 18th and shot a two-over 72 to slip 25 spots to tied 31st in the Euram Bank Open in Austria.
A five-under-par he's nine stokes behind Scotland’s David Law and Darius van Driel of the Netherlands who shot 62s on moving day at Golf Club Adamstal.
Dermot McElroy and Paul McBride 11 behind the leaders after 69s on a day when five players carded eight under par 62s
“The pins were maybe a little bit easier, they were more to the inside of the green, plus there was almost no wind, so it really was suited for shooting a low round,” said van Driel.
Sharing third place on 12 under par are Road To Ras Al Khaimah leader Joachim B. Hansen — who is after his third win this season and an automatic promotion to the European Tour – and American Sean Crocker, who made the cut at last week’s 147th Open Championship.