Thursday 18 January 2018

The anatomy of a collapse: Five reasons why Shane Lowry surrendered US Open lead

Shane Lowry went from leading by four strokes to being beaten by three at Oakmont
Shane Lowry went from leading by four strokes to being beaten by three at Oakmont
Cormac Byrne

Cormac Byrne

Ireland's Shane Lowry became the first golfer since Payne Stewart in 1998 to squander a four-shot 54-hole lead at the US Open last night but he didn't suffer a meltdown. Here's how his lead and his first major title were lost.

It is way too simple to say that the Offaly native threw away his chance. There were way more factors and variables at play. Here are five reasons why he shot a 76 and ultimately finished in a tie for second rather than as champion.

1. Andrew Landry

A birdie on 18 yesterday morning to conclude his third meant that the Texan ranked outside the world top 600 would form part of the final pairing alongside Lowry instead of eventual winner Dustin Johnson.

Landry, who led the tournament after an opening round 66 on Thursday, suffered a torrid time right from the off.

There was no energy for Lowry to feed off and with the Irishman continually out-driving his playing partner, the leader had to watch as Landry capitulated around the undulating greens at Oakmont.

You could argue that Johnson's playing partner Lee Westwood was suffering just as bad a day as Landry but the duo had a rapport which was illustrated with the Englishman's defence of Johnson at the fifth during the penalty fiasco and the fact that Westwood's caddie Billy Foster reassured Johnson after he was informed on the 12th that he may lose a shot.

Had Lowry played with Johnson, he would have been playing before the heavy-hitting American on most fairways and could have applied serious pressure to his opponent.

Jun 19, 2016; Oakmont, PA, USA; Andrew Landry hits out of a bunker on the 8th hole during the final round of the U.S. Open golf tournament at Oakmont Country Club. Mandatory Credit: Michael Madrid-USA TODAY Sports

2. Fatigue

It was a factor that Lowry's fellow Irishman Paul McGinley brought up in commentary on Saturday night.

He questioned how his compatriot would stand up to playing 54 holes in two days at the gruelling Pennsylvania course.

I hear you saying, 'he's a professional and should be more than used to it', but Oakmont is one of the most taxing golfing challenges on the planet where every shot is fraught with danger.

He did appear jaded when it came to the end of his round.

Johnson, a supreme athlete, looked more capable of dealing with the demands.

GOLF US Op_130.jpg
Shane Lowry, of the Republic of Ireland, watches his tee shot on the ninth hole during the final round of the U.S. Open golf championship at Oakmont Country Club on Sunday, June 19, 2016, in Oakmont, Pa. (AP Photo/Charlie Riedel)

3. Lady luck

There were a number of occasions when Lowry just didn't get the bounce of the ball.

When two-over for his round and in need of a change in fortune, the 29-year-old's luck deserted him on the Par 3 8th as his chip bounced out of the cup and he had to settle for a par.

Watch below:

Lowry picked up his only birdie of the round on the 12th but it could so easily have been an eagle as his chip narrowly missed out on the hole.

Contrast that with Johnson, who at the 10th hole hit a very wayward drive into the heavy rough.

It took three minutes to find the ball it was that deep in the grass.

Luckily for him, he also found a giant television tower in his way.

Contrary to popular belief, that’s not a “play it as it lies” situation as the TV tower is a man-made obstacle and instead of hacking out of the long grass, he got to drop two club lengths away, into the the first cut, hit the ball directly over the obtacle and save par.


4. Cold putter

Lowry had been imperious with his putter until he reached the 14th last night.

One three-putt in 67 holes was followed by three three-putts in a row that ended his chances of claiming a first major.

In truth, his approach play while solid was leaving him with very tricky birdie attempts all day.

5. Dustin Johnson

The eventual winner played inspired golf when it mattered most.

Apart from his massive slice of fortune at the 10th, the new world number three drove impeccably and very, very long,  often needing just a drive and a wedge to reach the green in regulation.

He began to wobble slightly after he was told by USGA officials on the 12th that he may be penalised for an incident on the fifth green.

He regathered himself and played the tough 18th hole perfectly to close with a birdie and secure a three-stroke triumph.

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