Reed miracle hands Lowry golden ticket
SHANE LOWRY can thank the luck of the Irish and a miracle finish by American youngster Patrick Reed for his place in next week's Accenture Match Play Championship in Tucson.
Lowry looked certain to be knocked into limbo as Freddy Jacobson lay in solo seventh place in the AT&T Pebble Beach National Pro-Am with only three groups left on the course.
Brandt Snedeker was unstoppable as he closed out a sixth PGA Tour victory but all Irish eyes were on Reed, who needed a birdie at the last (for a 70) to join Jacobson in seventh place on 12-under and cancel the Swede's ticket to Tucson.
Lowry's hopes of making it into a wild west shootout with world No 1 Rory McIlroy in Wednesday week's Match Play first round seemed to expire when Reed (22) hit his tee shot into the rocks on the Ocean Shore.
Yet he recovered brilliantly, pitching back into the fairway before hitting his approach to 12 feet and holing a putt for a gob-smacking birdie and Lowry's eternal gratitude meaning the Irishman made it through with 0.0002 of a world ranking point to spare.
It had been a nerve-wracking Sunday night for the Clara man, especially after a phenomenal runaway victory by South Africa's Richard Sterne at the Joburg Open knocked him back to 65th place in the world rankings.
Following Phil Mickelson's withdrawal, that would have been good enough to get Lowry into the 64-man field for Tucson by today's cut-off.
Yet as Sunday dawned at Pebble, 10 players capable of climbing past Lowry on the world ladder were loitering with intent within six of the lead.
If Lowry watched the telecast, it must have been from behind the sofa as his prospects rose and fell like the massive Pacific rollers pounding Pebble Beach.
Snedeker (32) tied for the 54-hole lead with James Hahn, stamped his authority on the occasion with a superlative eagle three at two, where he hit a 200-yard 4-iron to four feet.
The only wobble in a 65 by the FedEx Cup-holder came at nine, where he three-putted for bogey. But Snedeker, runner-up to Tiger Woods and Mickelson the previous two Sundays, rebounded by holing out aggressively for birdie at 10 and 11. Effectively, the rest were playing for second.
Jacobson's name seemed to be on that Accenture timesheet as he sank a 35-footer at eight and then planted another from 11 feet at nine which lifted him into a share of fifth.
The Swede (38) even swept into Chris Kirk's slipstream in a share of third as he chipped in from the greenside rough at 12 and then holed a 37-foot monster at 13 for two more staggering birdies.
His prospects dimmed with a bogey at 15 but his closing 67 seemed good enough when Reed pulled that tee shot left on 18.
Kirk finished second on 17-under, just two behind Snedeker, after recovering impressively from clumsy back-to-back bogeys at 10 and 11 for a 66.
This wobble by Kirk allowed big-hitting Jimmy Walker briefly take solo second, putting two players between Lowry and Tucson. Yet Walker's run of six birdies in eight holes came to a halt at 13 and he fell back into a share of third.
Padraig Harrington missed the 54-hole cut at Pebble by two as cracks yet again appeared in his confidence around and on the greens during Saturday's two-over par 72 on the Monterey Peninsula course.
Sterne purred home seven shots ahead of Charl Schwartzel yesterday to claim a tournament record victory on 27-under at the Johannesburg Open.
Second in Dubai seven days earlier, Sterne posted an imperious final-round 64 for a tally of 260, equal second-lowest 72-hole score in European Tour history, as he won in Joburg for the second time.
His sixth victory on the European circuit (and first since 2008) propelled Sterne into the lead in the Race to Dubai.