By Adam Schupak
Just one month ago at the Open Championship, Shane Lowry commented that the game wasn't loving him and he wasn't loving the game. What a difference a month makes.
Lowry fired an even-par 70 and finished with a 72-hole of 8-under 272 and tied for 12th place, six shots behind winner Brooks Koepka, at the 100th PGA Championship.
"That’s three weekends in a row right up there, back where I feel I belong," said Lowry, who also fared well at the RBC Canadian Open and Barracuda Open.
Lowry started strongly with a 17-foot birdie putt at the first hole, but gave it back with a bogey at the sixth. He rolled in another birdie at the ninth, but missed a 5-footer at No. 10.
But he didn't let that hiccup get him down. He charged into contention with a 23-foot birdie putt at 12 and rolled in a 53-footer for a deuce at the par-3 13th.
"When you hole a long putt on 12 and 13, it's just like crazy out there," Lowry said of the raucous fans, which came out in huge numbers all week.
The back-to-back birdies got him to 10 under and within four strokes of Koepka, the leader. But that was the closest Lowry would get as he made two late bogeys at Nos. 16 and 17.
"It was good fun for a while," Lowry said. "I am very disappointed obviously because I had a great chance.
Lowry fanned his tee shot at the par-3 16th out to the right and called for a rule's official to assist in a drop away from a television tower, but wasn't happy with the outcome. So, he called for another opinion, and still wasn't satisfied with the result and eventually accepted the drop.
"I think the referee didn’t have the balls to make a decision there and if he did I would have had an easier shot," Lowry said. "If you put [European Tour official] John Paramor or any of the good referees out there, he would have given me full relief. But he wasn’t giving me full relief; he was telling me to drop it in the tree, basically. I ended up making a good four. If I’d made double I wouldn’t have been too happy with him."
Not even a disappointing closing stretch could spoil Lowry's pleasure in being in the hunt on the back nine on Sunday at a major. He ranked second in driving accuracy for the week, hitting 46 of 56 fairways and finished first in Strokes Gained: Putting. His game has improved leaps and bounds after struggling for much of the year.
"You have doubts in your own head, and you have people start doubting you. And it's a lonely game and a tough place when you are not playing well," he said.
"That's the reason why we endure the day you have at Carnoustie and things like that."
Lowry enjoyed having his brother, Alan, on the bag and they will continue to work together through the FedEx Cup, but Alan is employed at Deloitte, an audit, tax and financial advisory provider, with a full-time job so Lowry is in the market for a long-term caddie solution.
"I said it to Alan and my dad driving in, no matter what happens it's been a great week, and it has," Lowry said. "To be up there again on 'Major Sunday' is what it's all about."