With all the Sunday drama last year at Chambers Bay, Ireland’s Shane Lowry had one of the quietest top-10 finishes at a U.S. Open you will ever see.
This year at Oakmont Country Club?
The field sees him loud and clear.
The 29-year-old son of a famous championship footballer isn’t quite done with his third round — he has four holes remaining Sunday morning — but he is on top of the leaderboard.
On Saturday, Lowry reeled off five birdies in a nine-hole stretch in the middle of his round to reach 5 under for the tournament, taking a two-shot lead over won’t-go-away American Andrew Landry.
Three golfers, including 36-hole leader Dustin Johnson, England’s Lee Westwood and Spain’s Sergio Garcia lurk three shots back. None of them have finished their third rounds either.
In fact, when play resumes at 7 a.m. local time Sunday (4 a.m. PDT), 24 golfers will have holes remaining before the start of the final round.
So, in essence, Lowry — who facially resembles comedian Ricky Gervais, but with more girth — is sitting on a lead with 22 holes remaining.
“This is right where you want to be,” Lowry said. “I am really looking forward to tomorrow.”
Despite living somewhat in the shadow of Northern Ireland’s Rory McIlroy, a four-time major champion, Lowry has started to carve out a nice career for himself.
In 2009, he became the third amateur to win on the European Tour by capturing his home Irish Open. He turned professional the following week.
And he notched his biggest win at the 2015 WGC-Bridgestone Invitational, holding off Bubba Watson for a two-stroke victory.
Lowry sees a lot of the same faces this week at Oakmont that he did last July in picking up that triumph.
“I beat a field of this quality already,” Lowry said. “So there’s no reason I can’t go out and do it again (Sunday).”
It was a crazy Saturday afternoon of golf in the third round, which began just past 3 p.m. local time.
The big-hitting Johnson surrendered the lead by hitting his drive near the famous “Church Pews” bunkers on the third hole, leading to a double bogey.
After that, Johnson, Landry, Westwood, Garcia — and, ultimately, Lowry — all traded places holding a share of the lead.
This is an especially big moment for Johnson, who could work his way into the final group on Sunday for a fifth time in his career.
He is 0 for 4 in that position, including last year at Chambers Bay, where he three-putted on the final hole to give Jordan Spieth the U.S. Open title.
“A lot of golf to go,” Johnson said. “The golf swing feels good. I am happy where I am at.”
Johnson isn’t the only big name knocking on the door for a first major title. So are Westwood and Garcia, two of Europe’s biggest stars.
A few minutes after Johnson made double bogey to fall back to 3 under, Westwood holed out his approach shot at No. 5 for an eagle-2 — the second eagle on a par 4 that he’s had this week — to join Johnson and Landry in the lead.
Garcia had back-to-back birdies at the fifth and sixth holes to join the fray.
But as is often the case at Oakmont, the course finally grabs you, forcing mistakes and bogeys.
“I mean, it’s hard,” Garcia said. “It is difficult out there. It is a tough golf course, but I am excited about it. I feel good about it.”
If Landry somehow stays in the hunt until the end, and pulls out a most improbable victory, he would join the likes of Jack Fleck, the 1955 national open champion, as among the biggest long-shot winners.
“No nerves,” Landry said. “Very comfortable.”
(Third-round scores are in relation to par when play was stopped)
More scores, 7B.