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solid Shane Lowry rues ‘bad decisions’ as he clinches his best Masters finish

Open champion ‘happy’ with his form as he seeks to stake Ryder Cup claim in months ahead


Shane Lowry in action during his third round at Augusta National on Saturday. Photo: Jonathan Ernst/Reuters

Shane Lowry in action during his third round at Augusta National on Saturday. Photo: Jonathan Ernst/Reuters

Shane Lowry in action during his third round at Augusta National on Saturday. Photo: Jonathan Ernst/Reuters

Shane Lowry believes he can do “something special” this season and he showed signs it might not be far away after he closed with a level-par 72 to remain on course for a career-best tie for 22nd in the Masters.

The Open champion has high hopes of making Pádraig Harrington’s European Ryder Cup team, and knowing the fastest route to Whistling Straits is through good play, he showed he’s close to producing a significant qualifying result after an impressive all-round performance at Augusta National.

While he was disappointed to make a handful of course management errors that cost him his chance of contending for the title, his tally of 16 birdies should give him hope that one day he can compete for that precious green jacket.

What was impressive was how he remained on an even keel throughout, even after what he described as “stupid errors and “bad decisions”.

One of the most egregious came on the ninth last night, where he three-putted from just 10 feet, missing a two-footer for par.

A few years ago, his shoulders might have slumped, but the Clara man (34) didn’t lose heart and battled on to improve on last November’s career-best tie for 25th.

Even when he came up short at the 12th and watched his ball roll back into Rae’s Creek, he knocked in a 12-footer for his bogey, then hit two superb shots into the heart of the 13th and two-putted to get back into red figures.

A birdie eluded him at the 15th, which he played in one-over for the week, but he made a seven-footer for a gritty par at the 16th after leaving himself a 40-footer from above the hole though he would drop a shot at the last after driving into the trees.

He went into the final round tied for 21st on level-par, 11 strokes adrift of Japan’s Hideki Matsuyama, who played brilliantly on the back nine in Saturday’s third round to 65 and open up a four-shot lead over the chasing pack.

Lowry had to settle for a third-round 72 and while he putted well until the rain delay, playing the front nine in one-under-par, he bogeyed the 11th and lost the speed of the greens after the resumption of playing, leaving birdie chances short at the 15th, 17th and 18th as well as three-putting the 16th.

“I’m disappointed,” Lowry said of his opening three rounds. “I feel like level-par for these last three days is probably the worst score you could be on, but then I’ve got to take the positives from that as well.”

Asked what pleased him most about his performance at Augusta and what he felt he needed to improve, Lowry pointed to those unforced errors.

“I feel like I’ve made an awful lot of stupid errors and made bad decisions a few times this week that have really cost me,” he said, referring in particular to Friday’s second round when he three-putted the first and second after getting out of position.

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“My start yesterday, like I played lovely the first day, shot one-under, very happy with that,” he said. “And then I go out and I start double bogey-bogey yesterday, and that’s just stupid. It really is.

“Standing there in the middle of the first fairway with a wedge in my hand and the whole of Augusta to the right and I miss it left, which is the only place you can’t miss it, which it’s kind of inexcusable. Then I bogey the second, and same, middle of the fairway with a wedge on No 7 yesterday, as well.

“Just got my round back on track, made a couple of nice pars on 4 and 5 and then played 6 well and then hit a great shot down on 7, and you’re only trying to hit it into that bowl left of that flag, and left it short and made bogey again, and that kind of frustrates me.”

Looking at the bright side, he added: “Yeah, I’ve made a lot of bad errors — a lot as in four or five — but my game has been very good. I’ve driven the ball okay, and I’m pleased with how I’m putting the ball at the minute. I’m seeing my lines, and I’m pretty happy with that. I’m pretty happy where my game is at, like I really am.

“As I told someone last week, I’m very happy where my game is at, and I feel like if I just stay patient over the next few months, that something special might happen.”

“Frustrating, like the last few days,” Lowry said of his final round. “I feel like I've played good enough golf this week to be out there somewhere around Amen Corner with a chance to win the tournament. I just kind of made a few too many mistakes along the way.

“You know, the 9th hole perfectly kind of sums up my week. I'm two-under playing nine. I've got a great chance. Genuinely, on this course I'm thinking, if I can hole this now and kind of get a bit of a run going on the back nine, who knows? Then I three-putt that, and I'm like, oh, now I'm struggling again.

“Look, I've thoroughly enjoyed my week because I feel like every day I come out and play this place I'm figuring it out a little bit better. I love the way I played this week."

He’d love the chance to win a green jacket some day but believes he needs to learn to play the course more conservatively.

“When you get it on a day like today, you just really need to be ultra-conservative, and you will get your chances,” he added. “The likes of 12 for me are really - it wasn't a great number. I really, really just should have got it in my head to hit it left of the hole over that bunker. Jack (Nicklaus) always says over that bunker, no matter where the flag is.

“But the way golf is played now, you feel like -- I have a hard time aiming away from flags sometimes. That's why I think I don't really have - I haven't really done too well around here because I struggle to be conservative. I struggle to not go at flags, and I struggle to aim away from flags. I just need to be a little more disciplined when I come back next year.”

Asked if he saw a green jacket in his future, he laughed and said: “Look, I hope so. I'll tell you, bogeyed 11 on Friday. I was three-over for the tournament, and I sort of resigned myself to the fact I was never going to win a green jacket.

“Then I played lovely the last few holes and then played nicely yesterday, and you kind of - you start to build your hopes up again. So who knows?

“Look, I truly - I hope I get the chance someday. I just hope I get the chance. I just really want the chance to do it around Amen Corner someday.

"Like I'd love to be in those last few groups out there. It's not great when you're out there playing for10th or 15th or whatever. It's much nicer when you're in contention.”

He got off to a poor start on Sunday when he pulled his opening tee-shot into the trees and overshot the green with a low running approach, doing well to limit the damage to a bogey with a seven-foot putt after his first chip failed to make the putting surface.

But driving the ball brilliantly he hit 11 of 14 fairways – he quickly got back to level-par, rifling a long iron through the back at the second before holing another seven-footer for his birdie. It wasn’t long before he got fully into his stride, knocking in a 20-footer for a rare birdie at the 495-yard fifth before moving to two-under when he fired a wedge to the back of the seventh and zipped it back to just three feet.

He had another great chance from just 13 feet at the ninth, but after knocking his birdie putt two feet past, he inexplicably missed the return and walked off with a bogey to turn for home tied for 14th on one-under.

Tyrrell Hatton shot a 68 and US PGA champion Collin Morikawa a 70 to set the clubhouse target at one-under par. But reigning US Open champion Bryson DeChambeau shot 75 to finish tied with Tommy Fleetwood (76) on five-over.

Two-time champion José María Olazábal (55) finished at eight-over after a pair of weekend 75s.

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