Comment: From Major champion in waiting to Ryder Cup despair - what has gone wrong with Shane Lowry?
Published 30/08/2016 | 12:58
Entering the final round of the 2016 US Open, it looked to be Shane Lowry's time.
Although Rory McIlroy's achievements have vastly outstripped Lowry's, the Offaly golfer has always been far more beloved than the Northern Irish prodigy.
And standing on the first tee box at Oakmont ahead of his final round on US Open Sunday, it looked like Lowry would add a Major championship to his burgeoning CV.
He added been slowly but surely establishing himself as one of the game's leading players with consistently good tournament finishes before winning the biggest prize of his career, the 2015 WGC-Bridgestone Invitational, in 2015.
The final Sunday of the US Open was set to be an extension of those achievements.
Lowry had played the end of his third round earlier that morning in style, adding two birdies to build a four shot lead over Dustin Johnson.
It didn't appear that he could be beaten - not only is a four shot lead a healthy buffer, but Lowry seemed to dispel any 'Sunday at a Major' nerves by attacking the course aggressively in the morning.
Alas, that wasn't the case.
From tee to green, and from the green to the hole, Lowry was nervy and tentative throughout his final 18 holes. The bogeys piled up and even a harsh penalty added to Johnson's scorecard after his round didn't stop the American from running away with a three stroke victory.
Lowry shot a five over par final round.
He was adamant in the aftermath that he would be back stronger and that he could win a Major. However, his form since would lead you to believe that the scars of that final round collapse have yet to heal.
Before the US Open, Lowry had four top 25 finishes this season. Since then, he has had one.
He missed the cut at the year's final two Majors, the Open Championship and the PGA Championship, while also failing to make the weekend at the Travelers Championship at the start of August.
His only PGA Tour finishes since the US Open in mid-June was T36 when defending his World Golf Championship and T42 at the Wyndham Championship last week.
His European Tour performances haven't been much better - a missed cut at the Scottish Open in July was followed by a T24 finish at the Made In Denmark last week.
Greg Norman's season suffered a similar decline after his Masters collapse in 1996, as the Australian failed to win for the remainder of the year.
The slide in results since June have obviously hit Lowry's bank balance but they have also cost him a chance at appearing in his first Ryder Cup.
Considered a certainty for Darren Clarke's squad during the summer, Lowry's drop in form saw him miss out on one of the three captain's picks, having already failed to qualify automatically.
It is a huge shame for Lowry, whose aggressive on-course style and colourful personality seemed to be a perfect fit for the team format.
It has been a hectic year for Lowry, who married his fiancé Wendy after the Masters, and not playing in the Ryder Cup will give him a chance to decompress and take stock of his game.
Missing out on the Ryder Cup could be a huge career moment for Lowry. How he reacts to the disappointment of the last six months will dictate whether he finally fulfills his Major potential.