Surging Lowry and McDowell primed to push on at Pebble
Shane Lowry and Graeme McDowell proved they can be a factor at Pebble Beach and contend for spots in Pádraig Harrington's Ryder Cup team after their brilliant performances in Canada.
Lowry finished tied for second with Webb Simpson behind a dominant Rory McIlroy to clinch his third top-10 in four PGA Tour starts and a ten-place jump to 32nd in the world that gives him a great platform to challenge for a Ryder Cup debut when qualifying begins at Wentworth in September.
But it was also a watershed week for McDowell, who earned a coveted spot in The Open at his home course when he made an outrageous, downhill 30 footer for par at the last to tie for eighth.
The Portrush native leapt 21 spots to 101st in the world and now has a chance to move closer to the top 50 over the summer as he returns home for the Dubai Duty Free Irish Open and the Scottish Open.
Ranked third for putting, Lowry moved up 54 spots to 65th in the FedExCup standings which means he will win back his PGA Tour and must now decide if he will take it up next season or concentrate on Europe in his bid for a Ryder Cup debut at Whistling Straits.
"I think I might have won the second tournament," Lowry joked after finishing seven shots behind a runaway McIlroy on 15-under.
"I don't know what golf Rory is playing today, but it was just incredible. I'm very happy with the way I played. It gives a great bit of confidence going into next week."
Few were happier than McDowell, who has had the monkey of Open qualification on his back all year but finally shook it off with a closing 68 thanks to a lightning quick, 30-foot curler on the final green.
"It's like chasing a ghost out there when you're trying to play for these spots because you don't know whether fifth is going to be enough and you're thinking tenth might be enough," McDowell said.
"I think I had a reasonable belief in myself that I was going to be able to take care of it one of these weeks but obviously as the pressure started to build it was going to be more difficult as it went along. It's awesome to get it done here."
McDowell failed to birdie the par-five 17th, and when he was forced to lay up from heavy rough at the tough, par-four 18th, he was unsure if a bogey was going to be good enough to finish in the top 10.
"My caddie was trying to do the maths as we walk up to 18 green. He's thinking five may be good enough. Basically, he said 'don't mess around with a chip shot. Give yourself a look at 4'.
"We did that, and, man, the putt was not makable, no. It was literally a 1 in 10. It had 12 feet of break on it. It was ridiculously tough putt to make.
"I just fancied it, I saw it, liked the way it looked, and when I saw it go in it was a huge relief.
"Obviously, at that point, I still didn't know if I was guaranteed to be in, but I knew that 4 gave me more of a chance than 5."
Before heading off to take the private jet RBC chartered to take the stars from Canada to Pebble Beach, and enjoy "a few brewskis", McDowell admitted he was proud for Irish golf and happy to see "amazing" McIlroy back to his best
"Rory has had a huge amount of focus this year," he said. "I really feel like he's in a different place mentally than ever before in his career."