Three late three-putts cost Shane Lowry the US Open as Dustin Johnson made a rules controversy irrelevant by storming to a massively impressive three-stroke maiden major triumph at Oakmont.
Leading by four strokes from the 31-year old American and rookie Andrew Landry thanks to five under 65, Lowry was never comfortable in the final round and three putted the 14th, 15th and 16th for bogeys and a 76, finishing tied for second with Jim Fuyrk (66) and Scott Piercy (69) on one under par 279
It was sad end to a wonderful week for the 29-year old from Offaly, who will have learned much for future major challenges.
For Johnson, who three putted the 72nd hole to lose the US Open to Jordan Spieth last year, it was sweet redemption.
He birdied the last from four feet for what was initially a 68 but eventually made a 69, finishing on four under having been handed a one-stroke penalty in the scorers hut after he was deemed to have caused his ball to move as he prepared to putt at the fifth
His win erased the pain of several major disasters as he holed a nine footer for par at the 16th to remain two ahead, then birdied the 18th thanks to towering 191 yard approach to five feet.
In 2010 he blew a three shot led to lose the US Open to Graeme McDowell, then missed out on a three-hole playoff for that year’s US PGA when he was handed a two-stroke penalty for grounding his club in a bunker on the 18th.
Two years ago he took the second half of the year off to seek professional help for "personal challenges”.
The controversy of the fifth lingered all night as Johnson was only told on the 11th that he may be assessed a penalty.
The ruling was ironic considering Lowry called a penalty stroke on himself on the seventh hole of his second round on Saturday, making bogey at the 16th after he said he caused the ball to move.
It was another thrilling US Open climax that featured final round charges by Jason Day and Sergio Garcia that came to nothing.
The Australian double bogeyed the 17th and bogeyed the last for a 71 that left him tied eighth on one under while Garcia bogeyed the 15th, 16th and 17th to slip from one behind to finish tied fifth after a 70.
Lowry completed a third round 65 early in the morning to head into the final round with a four-shot lead over Johnson and Landry on seven under.
He looked cool and calm as he headed to the first tee but he turned for home one behind as he bogeyed the second, fifth and ninth,
Johnson birdied the second by driving the green, then birdied the ninth from eight feet to grab a share of the lead with Lowry on five under.
The Clara man then drove into a bunker at the ninth and had to lay up, dropping another shot to head down the stretch three over for the day and a shot behind Johnson on four under.
The fifth hole ruling wasn’t the only one to affect Johnson, who began the back nine by hooking into deep rough at the 10th.
Almost unbelievably considering it was hard to find the ball, he got to line of sight relief from a TV tower and a free drop that allowed to take relief and eventually place his ball in the first cut, making a safe par after hitting his second straight over the same tower.
As he headed down the 12th, Lowry was tied for second with Sergio Garcia and Scott Piercy on three under, two behind Johnson.
But with officials telling Johnson on the 12th they would decide after the round whether or not he had incurred a penalty after his ball moved at the fifth, Rory McIlroy and Jordan Spieth jumped on Twitter to slam the USGA.
McIlroy tweeted: “This is ridiculous... No penalty whatsoever for DJ. Let the guy play without this crap in his head. Amateur hour from @USGA.”
This is ridiculous... No penalty whatsoever for DJ. Let the guy play without this crap in his head. Amateur hour from @USGA— Rory McIlroy (@McIlroyRory) June 19, 2016
Spieth wrote: “Lemme get this straight.. DJ doesn't address it. It's ruled that he didn't cause it to move. Now you tell him he may have? Now? This a joke?”
Lemme get this straight.. DJ doesn't address it. It's ruled that he didn't cause it to move. Now you tell him he may have? Now? This a joke?— Jordan Spieth (@JordanSpieth) June 19, 2016
Lowry birdied the 12th to get to within one of Johnson (or tied for the lead depending on the eventual decision) and then got up and down from sand at the 13th, holing a key six footer for his par to remain one back.
Johnson then three-putted the 14th to fall back into a tie for the lead on a day that Lowry will never forget.
Graeme McDowell did well to finish tied 18th on six over after a 72 considering he made two double bogeys in the first five holes.
“I got off to slow starts both rounds,” he said of his weekend. “If I could have mastered those first eight holes, I'd have had a decent weekend. But all in all, some good stuff there.”?
Looking forward to pushing for a Ryder Cup place over the next month, he added: “This is a US Open. It's hard. It kind of beat me up a little bit. But definitely taking some good positives out of here.”
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