Tuesday 27 September 2016

'Big day' ahead for Shane Lowry as he contends for glory in Firestone

Phil Casey

Published 09/08/2015 | 11:58

Shane Lowry reacts after missing a putt on the eighteenth hole at Firestone
Shane Lowry reacts after missing a putt on the eighteenth hole at Firestone

England's Justin Rose fired a flawless 63 to claim a share of the lead after the third round of the WGC-Bridgestone Invitational at Firestone Country Club.

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Rose had carded 17 pars and one bogey in a second round of 71 in Akron, extending an unwelcome streak without a birdie to 30 holes to start the day six shots off the lead.

However, the Ryder Cup star made amends in brilliant fashion with seven birdies - four of the them in the last six holes - to finish nine under par alongside halfway leader Jim Furyk, who returned a 69.

"If I go back to (Friday) I was really pleased with the way I played. I drove the ball phenomenally well and had wedges in my hand all day," Rose, who won the Zurich Classic of New Orleans a fortnight after finishing joint second behind Jordan Spieth in the Masters, told Sky Sports 4.

"I felt like I could have birdied most of the holes out there and it just didn't happen. It would have been easy to get frustrated (on Friday) and go backwards, but I think (Saturday) was a product of staying patient (on Friday) and still believing I was playing well."

Asked if his form was pointing toward a second major title ahead of next week's USPGA Championship, the 2013 US Open winner added: "I would say yes.

"If I look at the Masters, that was huge shot in the arm in terms of confidence as I had not played any good golf before then. Jordan was incredibly hard to beat that week, but take him out and I felt I put in a major-winning performance.

"Going into the final round at St Andrews (at the Open Championship) I was nine under par - the same mark as Marc Leishman and Zach Johnson, who made the play-off, so I just needed that hot Sunday. At least I am knocking on that door a little bit again, which is nice."

Furyk has recorded nine top-10 finishes at this tournament, including five in a row from its inception in 1999, and memorably lost a seven-hole play-off to Tiger Woods in 2001.

The world number six also squandered a one-shot lead with one hole to play in 2012, carding a double bogey from the middle of the 18th fairway to lose out by a shot to Keegan Bradley.

Consecutive rounds of 66 meant Furyk began the third round with a four-shot lead and he briefly enjoyed that cushion again following his third birdie of the day on the 11th.

However, the 45-year-old bogeyed the next and was unable to find any more birdies on the closing stretch to end the day tied with Rose, two shots ahead of playing partner Shane Lowry.

Lowry was within a shot of the lead after his fourth birdie of the day on the 12th, but bogeyed the next two holes before a birdie on the 16th helped the 28-year-old card a third-round 67.

"Obviously this is a massive tournament and it's going to be a big day for me tomorrow," Lowry told Sky Sports 4.

"Going out here in contention is a lot different than going out in contention in a smaller event back home, but we're going to try and hit the first tee shot down the middle of the fairway and take it from there."

Australia's Steven Bowditch had set the early clubhouse target after a superb 63 and was joined on five under by Ian Poulter, Henrik Stenson and double Masters champion Bubba Watson.

Poulter carded seven birdies and two bogeys in his 65 and said: "It feels pretty good. I have not played my best golf over the last couple of months but got off to a nice start today which was what I needed.

"I did some good putting practice last week at Woburn and had a little swing change two weeks ago at my brother's centre in Newport Pagnell and am hitting it better and putting better as well."

World number two Jordan Spieth has his work cut out to replace Rory McIlroy at the top of the rankings with a victory on Sunday, the 22-year-old carding a double bogey on the 18th to shoot 72 and lie nine shots off the lead.

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