Wednesday 19 June 2019

Shane Lowry makes a charge at the US PGA Championship before rain halts his surge

Shane Lowry makes his push as the US PGA Championship
Shane Lowry makes his push as the US PGA Championship

Ireland's Shane Lowry moved into contention at the US PGA Championship in St Louis, but he has ground to make up as he aims to catch leaders Gary Woodland, Kevin Kisner and Brooks Koepka.

Lowry was three under par for the first ten holes of his second round, as he surged up the leaderboard to move to four under, yet he faces a tough task to catch the leaders after a day of low scoring was cut short by rain.

The inclement weather means that Lowry will need to continue his second round on Saturday before playing his third round on what will be a hectic day at the final major championship of the year.

Brooks Koepka and Charl Schwartzel equalled the lowest score in tournament history as the 100th US PGA Championship served up some sparkling goal, with Gary Woodland heading into Day 3 with a one shot lead.

Koepka's flawless 63 left the double US Open champion two shots off the clubhouse lead held by fellow American Woodland, whose 10-under-par halfway total of 130 established a championship record.

Woodland enjoyed a one-shot lead over compatriot Kevin Kisner, who bogeyed the last to shoot 64, with Schwartzel three off the lead alongside world number one Dustin Johnson and Thomas Pieters after eight birdies and a bogey in his 63.

Thunderstorms then forced play to be suspended in mid-afternoon and later abandoned for the day, with the second round set to resume at 7am local time on Saturday. Tiger Woods had completed seven holes in three under par, with playing partner Rory McIlroy carding seven pars.

A birdie on the last would have seen Koepka or Schwartzel equal Branden Grace's major record of 62, set during the third round of the Open Championship at Royal Birkdale last year.

But while Schwartzel did not come close from long range, Koepka's attempt from 20 feet agonisingly caught the edge of the hole and stayed out.

"I just was trying to make the thing and I really thought I made it," said Koepka, who successfully defended his US Open title at Shinnecock Hills in June. "I didn't even think of it [the 62]. I've been so in the zone you don't know where you are or where you're at."

Kisner had also had the opportunity to shoot 62 after covering the back nine in 29 and picking up another birdie on the seventh, only to bogey the ninth, his final hole of the day.

Woodland is yet to record a top 10 in 27 major appearances but has reaped the rewards of working with two British coaches, Phil Kenyon on his putting and Pete Cowen on his short game.

"For me as a whole, the putting was kind of just the last piece of the puzzle," said the 34-year-old from Kansas, who admits he is in "enemy territory" in neighbouring Missouri, after a 66.

"Butch [Harmon] and I focused so hard this year on driving the golf ball because, when I drive it in play, I'm playing a game a lot of guys aren't playing out here, and that's a huge advantage. Once that started to come around, really the putting was the last piece.

"When I see putts go in, I'm a completely different player, especially with as aggressive as I'm playing right now. So it was nice to get some work in with Phil at the Open, and then I've had a couple weeks to work on it."

Kenyon also works with Open champion Francesco Molinari, who is five shots off the lead after a 67, with world number three Justin Rose another stroke back following a 69.

"I'm happy with the way I scored considering how I played," said Rose, who did not play a practice round after recent back spasms. "I played poorly today, really struggled, didn't hit my irons well at all."

Rory McIlory was on level par after playing just seven holes of his second round before the rain forced play to be abandoned, with Tiger Woods continuing his fine form as he was three-under par for his second round and the tournament overall with 11 holes left to play in his second round.

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