Shane Lowry ties a major championship record by shooting a 9-under 62 to get into the mix at the PGA

LOUISVILLE, Ky. (AP) — Shane Lowry switched putters in New Orleans last month, frustrated by what was happening on the greens.

Or not happening, to be more specific.

The immediate returns were pretty blah Lowry. Irish countryman and good friend Rory McIlroy paired up with Lowry for a narrow victory at the two-man team event, a win Lowry figures might have been more comfortable if the new putter had cooperated.

Still, Lowry stuck with it, figuring the problem wasn't with the equipment but his approach. He moved away from focusing on the technical aspect of things ahead of the PGA Championship and put more emphasis on feel and confidence.

The result was one of the best rounds in the history of major championship golf.

Lowry tied a record by firing a 9-under 62 at a very gettable Valhalla on Saturday, zooming up the leaderboard thanks to four-plus hours of near-flawless putting.

The 37-year-old Irishman recorded nine birdies — six of them on putts of 13 feet or longer — against no bogeys to move to 13-under and put himself in the mix for a second major title to join his breakthrough triumph in the British Open back home at Royal Portrush in 2019.

Lowry enters Sunday two shots back of co-leaders Xander Schauffele and Collin Morikawa.

As strange as it sounds, Lowry knows he had a chance to even lower. He parred both the par-5s on the back nine, including the 18th, which had been playing as the easiest of the day.

He pushed his tee shot into the right rough, punched out into the fairway then hit his approach to 11 feet. As he stood over the birdie attempt, Lowry knew he had a chance at 61, something no player had done in over a century of major championship play.

Not at the British or U.S. Opens. Not at the Masters. Not at the PGA.

If anything, he wanted the ball to fall a little too much. And when it drifted just left of the hole, he closed his eyes and squeezed the club that had served him so well all day.

“Probably the most disappointed anyone can ever be shooting 62,” Lowry said with a smile. “I knew what was at stake.”

Instead, Lowry had to settle — as strange as that sounds — for matching the four previous 62s in majors, the latest by Schauffele during Thursday's opening round.

“It would have been a pretty cool moment to kind of seal the deal and (shoot 61),” Lowry said. “But at the end of the day, I knew even if I didn’t do it that I done what I needed to do today, and I’m pretty happy with that.”

He had a sense a performance like this was coming, even after he began the tournament with two relatively blah 2-over 69s that he called “the worst I've played in a long time.”

A range session with coach Neil Manchip late Friday afternoon helped Lowry address an alignment problem. Lowry had been setting up too far left, a flaw that can open the door to “all sorts of bad things.”

When Lowry arrived at the course on Saturday, he figured it would take a 6-under 65 to post a credible threat on Sunday.

Then he drained a 14-foot birdie on the par-4 second. And another from 13 feet on the par-3 third. And another from 19 feet on the par-4 fourth. And yet another from 6 feet on the par-4 fifth. He two-putted from 61 feet for an eagle on the par-5 seventh. And rolled in a 17-footer on the ninth to post the first-ever 29 in four PGAs at Valhalla.

The closest Lowry came to a mistake was at the par-5 10th. His second shot plugged in a front greenside bunker. He blasted out into the rough but got up and down for par.

Two more long birdie putts — bombs from 37 feet on the par-4 13th and 32 feet on the par-3 14th — kept the momentum going. A brilliant approach to 6 feet on the 17th led to his ninth birdie and put him on the cusp of history.

Yet Lowry has learned plenty about what it takes to win majors. When he pushed his drive on the 18th into the rough, he had two options: punch out or try to carry it toward the green.

Rather than get greedy, he backed off, more concerned about protecting his position.

“I knew if I made (par) that I’m still in the tournament,” he said. “If I made (bogey), I’d be livid with myself. I felt like it was probably a bit too risky to take on.”

Instead, Lowry ended up sharing a record that's becoming commonplace. Four of the five 62s shot in a major have come in the last 12 months, the last by a player who feels like a threat as the final round looms.

“I've sort of felt all season that if I could warm my putter up, that I could be dangerous,” Lowry said.

And he is.


AP golf:

05/19/2024 00:50 -0400

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