US Open: Lowry extracts positives after Oakmont disappointment

Dustin Johnson holds the trophy after winning the U.S. Open golf championship at Oakmont Country Club. (AP Photo/John Minchillo)Dustin Johnson holds the trophy after winning the U.S. Open golf championship at Oakmont Country Club. (AP Photo/John Minchillo)
Dustin Johnson holds the trophy after winning the U.S. Open golf championship at Oakmont Country Club. (AP Photo/John Minchillo)
SHANE LOWRY is convinced he has what it takes to win a major championship despite suffering the bitter disappointment of squandering a four-shot lead in the US Open that saw Dustin Johnson crowned champion.

Lowry became the first player since Payne Stewart in 1998 to fail to turn such a large 54-hole advantage into victory after struggling to a closing 76 on an incident-packed final day at Oakmont.

But the 29-year-old’s otherwise stellar display on a course described by former world No 1 Phil Mickelson as “the hardest we’ve ever played” has left him in no doubt he will triumph in one of the game’s four biggest events.

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“I’m definitely good enough to win one of these,” said Lowry, who had been on target to make it 10 wins in the last 36 majors by Irish players.

“So I’ll get back on the horse in a couple of weeks, back to Firestone and looking forward to defending (the WGC-Bridgestone Invitational) there.

“And obviously, I’ve got the Open and the US PGA in the next few weeks. It’s great to be in the position I was in and I hope I get myself in there quite a few times.”

After thunderstorms wreaked havoc with Thursday’s play, Lowry completed an opening 68 on Friday morning and added a second round of 70 on Saturday morning, before playing 14 holes of his third round in three under par that afternoon.

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“The way I played on Saturday, I’ve never felt so comfortable on a golf course in my life,” added Lowry, who finished joint second with Jim Furyk and Scott Piercy, three shots behind Johnson. “So whatever ‘in the zone’ is, I was there.”

Two shots clear overnight, Lowry resumed his third round at 7am on Sunday and birdied the 15th and 17th to complete a superb 65 to equal the lowest round of the week and match the 54-hole scoring record for a US Open at Oakmont set by eventual champion Ernie Els in 1994.

That left him four shots clear of Johnson and world No 624 Andrew Landry, but with seven hours to kill before the start of his final round.

“Those few hours were tough,” admitted Lowry. “I was restless, I tried to go for a kip and couldn’t sleep. It wasn’t ideal but that was the way it is. You’re out at half-three on a Sunday in a major – that’s what it is like. I remember it being the same in Chambers Bay last year.”

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Lowry dropped four shots in the first 10 holes to fall two behind Johnson, but was effectively back in front when he birdied the 12th – after almost chipping in for an eagle – and Johnson bogeyed the 14th as the American would eventually be penalised a shot for causing his ball to move when addressing a par putt back on the fifth. However, Lowry then three-putted the 14th, 15th and 16th to end his chances of becoming the first player from the Republic of Ireland to win the US Open.

“It’s one of those that’s going to be hard to take,” he added. “It’s going to be a tough few days. It’s not easy to get yourself in a position I was in. When I got myself there, I didn’t finish the job off, which is really disappointing.

“But I led by four shots in the tournament going into the final round. I had a lead with five holes to play. There’s lots of positives to take from this week. It’s the toughest test of golf, and this is a true test of golf, and I was right up there for 67 holes – the whole round, really. So that’s golf. You win some, you lose some.”

Lowry refused to blame the uncertainty surrounding Johnson’s possible penalty on his performance in the closing stages, with the remaining players on the course informed of the situation by the referee with their group.

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“We were told at the 12th (but) it didn’t really affect my game-plan,” added Lowry.

“I actually just lipped out for eagle, made a great par save on the next and really thought I was in the tournament. If anything, I was hoping he’d get the one-shot penalty. But that’s the way it is. Obviously, he didn’t need the extra shot in the end. It would have been interesting if we were tied at the same score.”

England’s Lee Westwood failed to make a serious push for his first major title, having started the final round five shots off the lead. Playing alongside Johnson, Westwood played the front nine in eight over par and eventually slumped to a closing 80.

US Masters champion Danny Willett was a shot further adrift on 289 and fellow Yorkshireman Matt Fitzpatrick closed on 293.

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Johnson, who ensured any penalty would not matter with a stunning birdie on the 18th, said: “I couldn’t be more excited, more happy and more proud of myself, especially with the things that happened last year at the US Open on the 18th hole.”

Then, he three-putted the 72nd hole at Chambers Bay to finish a shot behind Jordan Spieth.

“To come back this year and to get it done, it’s definitely bitter-sweet. It was a lot of fun. I still don’t think I caused the ball to move and I don’t even understand the rule. I got a penalty but it didn’t matter at the end of the day.”

Johnson had recorded four top-10 finishes in five majors since missing the 2014 US PGA due to a six-month leave of absence from the game to deal with ‘’personal challenges,’’ though he refuted allegations of a positive test for cocaine.