OAKMONT, Pa. — Excitement vs. Exhaustion. Shane Lowry was feeling both shortly after play was suspended Saturday night, the 29-year-old Irishman holding a two-stroke lead with 22 holes left to play in the 116th U.S. Open.
But in the gloaming at Oakmont Country Club, Lowry admitted the latter was starting to gain the upper hand.
“Quite happy that we didn’t have another four holes to play,” Lowry said. “It’s been a long day. … I was getting tired toward the end.”
You would be tired, too, if you had played 32 holes on Saturday -- posting an even-par 70 in wrapping up a rain-delayed second round, then making five birdies en route to shooting three under through 14 holes of the third round.
Lowry would have a three-shot lead if not for the one-stroke penalty he assessed on himself on the par-3 16th hole during his second round. After hitting his tee shot 30 feet from the hole, Lowry addressed his ball on the green only to see it move. Admittedly shaken, he hit a poor attempt at what was now a lengthy par putt, but regrouped to hole an eight-footer for bogey.
“That kind of kept me going, and from there on, I just played good golf,” he said.
Teeing off in the second-to-last threesome off the first tee in the third round, Lowry didn’t let an early bogey on the second hole frustrate him, either, rolling in birdies on the fourth and sixth, and making another on the seventh hole to take the outright lead. Lowry followed that with a bogey-birdie exchange on the eighth and ninth holes, then rolled in a ticklish two-footer for birdie on the par-5 12th hole.
If he was feeling any nerves in his quest for a first major championship title, Lowry did well to hide them as he spoke about sleeping on the lead. He mentioned his victory at the WGC-Bridgestone Invitational last August and the confidence that it left him with. Yet he also noted how the victory brought about expectations for the three-time European Tour winner to play at a higher level, something he made mention of Saturday night.
“This is exactly where you want to be,” Lowry said. “I’ve been beating myself up over the last six months trying to get in this position. I’m here now. I might as well enjoy it while I’m here.”
But not before a good night’s rest.
UPDATED, Sunday, 9:10 a.m. -- Lowry returned rested and ready to complete his third round on Sunday morning, making two birdies over his final four holes to extend his lead to four strokes over Dustin Johnson and Andrew Landry.
“To be honest, I would have taken four pars and gone home for a bit of rest,” Lowry said. “It was a really good morning’s work for me. One of the best rounds of my career, 65 on this golf course against these guys. Hopefully, I can keep going.”