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Shane Lowry’s record-tying PGA round? Up close, 1 undeniable thing was clear

LOUISVILLE, Ky. — Shane Lowry needed Jason Day. He smelled an opportunity.

Nevermind where he was Saturday — Valhalla Golf Club’s 18th hole.

Or the event — the PGA Championship’s third round.

Or the surroundings — on the cusp of the lowest round ever at a major championship, though he’d just shoved his tee ball right, into the zoysia cabbage.

Who cares? A few yards off the tee, Lowry whipped around backward and spotted Day, one of his playing partners. He held up his driver. Motioned toward the grip. And howled. The context was unclear — maybe a lesson, maybe a bet, maybe something pulled straight from the Irishman’s backside — but the point here is not.

Lowry is a cup of coffee in the morning. Or a glass of Kentucky bourbon at night. To borrow a phrase he understands well, he’s good craic, in the flesh. He smiles. You smile.

And everyone was smiling Saturday. Let’s run it down. He birdied the par-4 2nd on a 14-footer. He birdied the par-3 4th on a 13-footer. He birdied the par-4 4th on a 19-footer. He birdied the par-4 5th on a 7-footer. He birdied the par-5 7th on a two-putt from 60 feet. He birdied the par-4 9th on a 17-footer. That gave him a front-nine 29. But there was more. He birdied the par-4 13th on a 37-footer. He birdied the par-3 14th on a 32-footer. As Lowry teed off on 15, Rory McIlroy, as close to Lowry as anyone, smiled from the group behind. Naturally. Lowry then birdied the par-4 17th on a 6-footer. He was nine under through 17. Ten under on the par-71 course would give him the major record.

Let’s pause it there, though. Numbers are kinda boring. You’re good there. Play us a song, DJ.

OK. There was Lowry and Justin Rose, Lowry’s other playing partner, hamming it up along the fairways. Rose was excellent Saturday, too. He also birdied 2, 3, 4, 5 and 7, and a mini-squabble broke out over who had tee honors.

So who had ’em?

“Yeah, me,” Rose said. “Shane was like, geez, I can’t get the honor. I thought it would be nice to make bogey up 9. He was getting a bit irritated.”

Shane, that right?

“I said that to him on the — I think it was walking off the 5th green, I’m like, ‘What am I going to have to do to get the honor off you today?’” Lowry said. “Yeah, it was pretty cool out there, the two of us. He obviously had a great round, as well, and he’s put himself in there tomorrow, and we both played great.

“It was nice to kind of bounce off each other and feed off each other the whole day.”

OK, back to 18. Things didn’t end well, and they did. Lowry, after going right, muscled out an iron to the left side of the fairway, about 100 yards from the hole. Shot three, he club-twirled on. Fist-bumped caddie Darren Reynolds on. He’d dropped his ball to 11 feet. That was for history. Greenside, as Day and Rose putted, Lowry took a sec. Took it in. Had to. “I kind of stood back and allowed myself to enjoy the moment,” he said. “It was a pretty cool moment to have.”

His turn now. Nothing was rushed. A practice stroke in front of the ball. A look at the putt to the right. A look to the left. A look behind. A quick pull up of his pants. He then putted. He missed just to the left. He winced. Looked skyward. He cleaned up for his par. Sixty-two. Ugh.

But 62! And this is Lowry.

He hugged Rose. Like hug-hugged him. Gave one to Rose’s caddie, Mark Fulcher, too.

“Yeah, it was pretty good,” Lowry said afterward. “I enjoyed it. I enjoyed every minute of it, obviously. Probably the most disappointed anyone can ever be shooting 62. I knew what was at stake.

“Just didn’t hit the ball hard enough. Had it on a good read and just broke away from the hole. Look, I went out there with a job to do today, and my job was to try to get myself back in the tournament, and I definitely did that.”

Where’d it come from? A win a few weeks back, with McIlroy at the team-based Zurich Classic, didn’t hurt. There was also his putting; according to golf-stats guru Justin Ray, Lowry gained a career-best 6.4 strokes putting on Saturday, and his 11.26 strokes gained putting this week are the most this year through three rounds by anyone in a PGA Tour event. A recent putter switch helped there. Elsewhere in the bag, Lowry said he adjusted his alignment on Friday on the range — he’d been set up a touch to the left, “and all sorts of bad things happen for me when I do that.”

Wonderful. But this is Lowry. Pour us something spirited, barkeep.

OK. Saturday, among the thousands here, no one was smiling more than him. Laughing more. Hugging more.

“To be honest,” Lowry said, “I said to my coach, my agent after the first two rounds, the last two days, I feel like I’ve gotten a lot out of my golf this week. I played poorly the first two days I felt, got a lot out of the rounds, and it’s been a while since I’ve felt like that. It’s a nice feeling to have.

“Going to enjoy it and kind of get out tomorrow and then just try and do it again.”

That’s a nice segue. Do it again. Can he?

Lowry’s had a nice career. One major, the 2019 Open Championship. A win at the WGC-Bridgestone Invitational. Four international wins. The 37-year-old would relish a PGA Wanamaker Trophy. He’ll start Sunday two back of leaders Xander Schauffele and Collin Morikawa, with 12 other players within five shots of the lead.

“Obviously you come here the start of every major championship, and you know what it means to win one of them,” Lowry said. “I’ve been fortunate to do it before, and to win one is pretty good, but to win multiple, you’re kind of a bit of a different level.

“I go out and fight hard. I’ve been in this position a few times before, learned from the sort of Oakmont and tournaments like that and brought that into Portrush, and hopefully I can bring some of that with me tomorrow and just give it everything.”

But does being a morning cup of coffee and a glass of Kentucky bourbon and good craic in the flesh actually work? Can it get him the win? A second major?

Let’s ask him.

His press conference late Saturday afternoon at Valhalla ended this way, with the question asked by a reporter.

“We see a lot of guys when they’re out on the course try to keep their emotions to a minimum. I think you would be categorized as one of the more emotive players in pro golf. Do you feel like it’s an asset at all that you kind of wear your heart on your sleeve?”

“Well, I think I’m doing OK,” Lowry said. “I think I’m happy with my career so far, so yeah, I think I’m doing OK. I’m not going to change.”


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