Lowry (76) Vows to Learn From Lost Lead

Shane Lowry surrendered a four-stroke lead during the final round on Sunday. (USGA/Darren Carroll)
Shane Lowry surrendered a four-stroke lead during the final round on Sunday. (USGA/Darren Carroll)

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OAKMONT, Pa. – When Shane Lowry walked off the golf course Sunday morning after completing an impressive 5-under-par 65 that gave him a four-shot lead in the 116th U.S. Open, he couldn’t have felt more confident. And he had a right to be.

And he dared to let himself dream.

“I mean, let's be honest, I’ve already visualized myself winning,” he said after playing four holes in 2 under par to post a 7-under 203 total that put him in the driver’s seat entering Round 4. “Even out walking around the course this morning, when you get a few moments to yourself, you do think about that.”

But at the end of the long day, all he could wonder is how it all came undone. The withering pressure of the U.S. Open and the supreme test that is Oakmont Country Club can flummox the game’s greatest players, even ones playing at top form.

Lowry, 29, struggled to a 6-over 76 and had to settle for a share of second place with Jim Furyk and Scott Piercy as Dustin Johnson powered his way to his first major championship.

There was no shame in the outcome for Lowry, who was playing in just his fourth U.S. Open and his 14th major championship. The native of Ireland played splendidly and was one of just four players who bettered par over 72 holes with his 1-under 279 aggregate score, three behind Johnson.

“Bitterly disappointed standing here,” Lowry said. “And you know, it’s not easy to get yourself in a position I got myself in today. It was there for the taking and I didn’t take it.”

Instead, he took it on the chin. His driver put him in awkward spots early and the putter failed to bail him out, and he ended up with seven bogeys against a lone birdie. That birdie, at the 12th, did bring him back within a stroke of Johnson after he lost the lead on the ninth hole. But a trio of bogeys starting at the 14th took him out of the race.

“I was just hanging in there. I was hanging in there well,” he said. “I tried my best to win this thing. It’s difficult to describe the way I felt. My bad holes, they probably got a little bit quick. Everything happened quickly. But you know, that’s what happens when you play a few bad holes. They’re kind of over before you know it. You’d like to have them back again.”

With the tie for second, Lowry did pick up enough points in the race for the European Ryder Cup to guarantee his spot on the team. Winner of the Irish Open as an amateur in 2009, Lowry is likely to have many more chances to win this championship. He has risen to the occasion in big moments before.

This one got away. But he knows the value of the effort he put forth.

“You know, you can only learn from your mistakes,” he said bravely and with a tough of exhaustion in his voice. “I always say it’s only a mistake if you don’t learn from it. I’m sure I learned a lot from today, and I don’t know what it is yet, but when I’m in that position again, and I know I will be, I’ll handle it a little bit better.”

Dave Shedloski is an Ohio-based freelance writer who frequently contributes to USGA websites.