A COMPELLING and heroic victory charge by Shane Lowry at the RBC Heritage in Hilton Head, South Carolina fell just short of the mark as he finished joint third, behing the winner C.T. Pan from Chinese Taipei.
While Lowry will have been bitterly disappointed not to close out the deal, his overall form was excellent as he played superbly consistent golf over the four days, leading for much of the way and only being over hauled in the closing day.
It made for fantastic viewing as Lowry hunted down a second win of the season. He won the Abu Dhabi Championship earlier this year and his latest showing proves how healthy his game is at the moment.
The manner in which he attacked and challenged for this title was refreshing from a couple of view points. It came just a week after he had malfunctioned at the US Masters in Augusta, missing the cut after a 6 over 78 in the first round left him with a mountain to climb.
Even more importantly, however, he had a point to prove on the US PGA Tour and while he missed out on entry to the winners' enclosure, he certainly showed that he has what it takes to compete at the highest level here.
The Clara professional had been dismayed to lose his US PGA Tour card last year and was resigned to competing on the European Tour for most of this season. The Abu Dhabi win, however, changed his stars as it propelled him back into the world's top fifty, earning him his Masters place along with the big World Golf Championship events and opening up the door to regular events.
He had endured a torrid time last year but this was much more like it as he took the tournament to a very strong field. It was a remarkably competitive event and at one stage on Sunday, anyone of ten players plus were in a position to take the win.
It was C.T. Pan who held his nerve in the back nine to record his first big win, getting home on -12, just a shot clear of American Matt Kuchar who had set the club house lead on -11 – Kuchar had won this tournament previously and a great birdie on the 18th gave him a chance of a repeat win but Pan was not in a charitable mood.
Lowry, Patrick Cantlay and Scott Piercy were tied third on -10 while another Irish man, Seamus Power was among the players on -19.
At different stages, other players looked like they could get it and both Dustin Johnson and Ian Poulter were in a great position at the start of Sunday but fell off the pace as the round progressed.
For Lowry, there were huge positives to take from the week. He had missed the cut in four of the big six events he had played in the USA – he also finished tied 62nd in the World Golf Championship Mexico Championship – and he had a point to prove on a circuit that really defines a golfer.
His finish earned him $358,800 and gave him 145.00 FedEx Cup points, moving him to 125th on the rankings list. Most significantly, it improved his world golf ranking from 50th to 43rd place – before Hilton Head, Lowry was on the edge of dropping back out of the top fifty but this was a significant jump and he will need to stay in the top fifty as he hopes to qualify for the British Open at Royal Portrush later this summer.
It would have been the second biggest win of Lowry's career – the biggest was the Bridgestone Invitational in 2015 while he also won the Portugese Open and of course his win as an amateur in the Irish Open catapulted him to international stardom back in 2009.
For much of the way here, Lowry looked a likely winner. Playing with great composure, his recent driving difficulties looked to be a thing of the past while his short game was excellent as usual and his putting was top notch.
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