Sport Golf

Saturday 18 November 2017

Lowry books US Open spot as Harrington left in Major mire

Shane Lowry celebrates holing his putt on the 18th green during the final round of the PGA Championship at Wentworth Golf Club in Surrey, England. Lowry finished second one shot behind winner Rory McIlroy. (Photo credit GLYN KIRK/AFP/Getty Images)
Shane Lowry celebrates holing his putt on the 18th green during the final round of the PGA Championship at Wentworth Golf Club in Surrey, England. Lowry finished second one shot behind winner Rory McIlroy. (Photo credit GLYN KIRK/AFP/Getty Images)
Shane Lowry is celebrating after qualifying for the US Open next month

Golf Karl MacGinty at Walton Heath

A day after his thrilling duel in the sun with Rory McIlroy at Wentworth, Shane Lowry was singing in the rain at Walton Heath as he romped home first in the race for a place at next month's US Open.

His confidence soaring after banking the biggest cheque of his career, €527,770, in second behind McIlroy at the BMW PGA, Lowry (27) left a 105-man field splashing in his wake as he completed the rain-doused 36-hole US Open International Qualifier in eight-under.

Sadly, a jaded Padraig Harrington missed the boat by six strokes yesterday and unless he wins the FedEx St Jude in Memphis on Sunday week, he will sit out his second Major in succession after failing to make last month's Masters for the first time in 15 years.

Lowry kept the celebrations to a minimum on Sunday as he set his sights on a second US Open appearance and his sixth in all at the Majors, and he took up where he left off at Wentworth, rolling in putt after putt on greens he described as "fantastic" despite teeming rain.

After a three-under 69 on the New Course, he shot a splendid 67 on the Old, including a chip-in eagle at three, followed by a playful high-five with the greenkeeper who squeegeed water off the putting surface just before the Offaly man hit.

The last time the US Open was played at Pinehurst, in 2005, Kiwi Michael Campbell, who won his starting place at Walton Heath, became the first qualifier to win the tournament.

Lowry hopes history might repeat itself on Sunday fortnight, saying: "The US Open is another tournament and I wouldn't be going if I didn't think I could win it."

His decision to take up with an old Two-Ball Blade he found in a cupboard at his Dublin apartment and blow the dust off a former putting routine two weeks ago turned round a dismal season and Lowry strutted his stuff last week like the two-time Tour winner of old.

"It's hard to believe in yourself when you're shooting 75 and 76, week-in, week-out," he confessed.

"Only a month ago, I shot 80 in Malaysia. Yet, in reality, it's just a few putts here and there, a bit of momentum and confidence, and now I feel I'm back to my old self."

Lowry missed the cut at Congressional in 2011 as Rory McIlroy romped to his record-shattering US Open win.

He got within one stroke of forcing McIlroy into sudden-death on Sunday at Wentworth.

"It would've been great fun to get Rory into a play-off," sighed Lowry, who clinched outright second by holing a 50-foot birdie putt at the last.

The Offaly man flies to Sweden this evening to prepare for the Nordea Masters, skips next week's Austrian Open, tees it up at Pinehurst, followed by the Irish Open at Fota, another week off, and then the French and Scottish Open.

Up 68 places on the world ladder to 76th position and 15th in the Order of Merit, a place at July's British Open in Hoylake will be Lowry's if he remains in Europe's top 20, while the world top 100 are invited to the US PGA at Valhalla.

The Clara man is back where he belongs.

In contrast, Harrington (43), jaded after compressing 14 rounds into 15 days, struggled to adjust to the lightning quick pace of the greens as a 75 on the New Course and a 71 on the Old Course left him tied with Waterford's Kevin Phelan (Old 72, New 74) on two-over.

Harrington will now miss the US Open for the first time in 15 years, making for an unwanted double disappointment – last month, he also failed to qualify for the Masters for the first occasion in 14 years.

"The damage was done in the morning with that 75. I just made a few mistakes in not knowing the golf course," he said.

"I was never comfortable with the pace of the greens and there was a number of three-putts thrown in there."

Harrington will now take a week's break before returning to the PGA Tour with the FedEx St Jude Classic in Memphis.

Irish Independent

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