near miss Shane Lowry looking on the bright side after being pipped for Honda Classic
Shane Lowry was looking at the positives after he overcame a five-stroke deficit with Daniel Berger only to be pipped at the post by Austrian Sepp Straka for the Honda Classic in Florida.
The burly Offaly man (34) said on the eve of the final round that he would have a chance to sneak his sixth career title if he could chisel out a three-under 67 or even a 66.
He did the former, giving full reign to his repertory of shots around the Champion Course at PGA National in his adopted West Palm Beach home as he bid to win for the first time since he lifted the Claret Jug at Royal Portrush more than two and a half years ago.
But it was not quite enough as Straka (28) birdied three of his last five holes, coming home in 32 to post a 10-under target with a closing, four-under 66 and claim his maiden title.
Lowry needed a birdie four at the 533-yard 18th to force a playoff, but Lady Luck turned her back on him and heavy rain lashed the course as he drove on the 18th.
His drive came up short in left rough and after being forced to lay up from there, he pulled his 114-yard wedge 44 feet left and two-putted for a bogey-free 67 and second place on nine-under ($872,000).
It was still a laudable performance from Lowry, who was five strokes behind US Ryder Cup star Berger starting the day, tied for second with Straka, Chris Kirk and Kurt Kitayama on six-under-par.
"Yeah, that's the game, unfortunately," Lowry said afterwards. "I played the golf, good enough golf I felt to win the tournament. That bad weather came in just as we were hitting our tee shot on 18, which was as bad a break as I've got in a while.
"Yeah, it's a tough one to take. There is obviously a lot of positives to take from the whole event. You know, I probably played some of the best golf of my whole career this week, I feel, around a very tough golf course. And, you know, I'll take that into The Players (in two weeks), and hopefully, I can have a good week there."
He took advantage of a stuttering start by Berger, who would fade to fourth after a 74, to claim a share of the lead after just six holes.
He then moved two shots clear with six holes to play before Straka birdied the 14th, 16th and 18th to pip him at the post.
Lowry's start was key as he watched a 16 footer topple into the hole in its last roll for birdie at the first, then found himself just two adrift when Berger ran up a double-bogey seven at the third after hooking into the trees and plugging his third in a greenside bunker.
The Irish star fired a wedge to three feet at the fourth to reduce the gap to a single stroke, then drew level by burying a seven-footer for par at the 182-yard fifth where Berger three-putted from 50 feet.
Berger holed a bunker shot for a two at the seventh to rejoin Lowry in the lead.
But while Lowry eventually rolled in a 14 footer at the 11th to go one clear, then found himself two ahead when Berger bogeyed the 12th, he missed a slippery 12 footer at the 16th, got up and down from left of the 17th for par but couldn't birdie the last as heavy rain began to fall.
"I was ready for anything out there today," Lowry said, explaining he'd gone through it all with his coach Neil Manchip. "I feel like mentally I'm very good at the minute.
"And, yeah, before I knew I was leading the golf tournament. It was great. I really enjoyed it. Quite nerve-wracking. It's a tough place to be. I felt like I handled myself well. Just got stolen away from me today."
He may look back at the four-foot birdie putt he missed at the eighth, but in truth, he was outplayed down the stretch by Straka and can look to his impressive ball-striking as a reason to be optimistic when he reappears at TPC Sawgrass in a fortnight.
Only Straka hit the ball better from tee to green, finishing first for strokes gained off the tee, first for fairways hit and tied first for greens hit in regulation.
Lowry was fourth for strokes gained off the tee, second for strokes gained tee to green, tied fourth for fairways hit, third for approach play and tied fourth for greens hit in regulation.
He was also second for scrambling and 16th for strokes gained putting after taking 30 putts in the last two rounds.
With a little more luck on the greens, he might have claimed victory, but it's still early in the season and after playing in the final group twice in his first four outings, he will be feeling confident about the season ahead.
As for his winning drought stretching to 935 days, he said: "Yeah, it's hard to win out here. It's just hard. End of story. There is no point saying any different.
"You go out like I did today; I played the golf to win the tournament but didn't win. So just PGA Tour and the top level of world golf, the standard is very high at the minute. Yeah, just hard."
Admitting he was gutted, he said: "Like the next 24 hours will be tough, but my kids are here and my family. I'll get on with my life tomorrow, and I'll be fine.”
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