Shane Lowry ties the lead at Cognizant Classic after big Saturday move

Rory McIlroy suffers nightmare 16th hole as triple bogey sees him fall down the leaderboard

Shane Lowry put himself in a great position for his first PGA Tour victory in more than four years after a five-under-par round of 66 saw him take a tie of the lead at the Cognizant Classic.

But it will not be easy given the packed leaderboard at PGA National on a day where his great friend and fellow Irishman Rory McIlroy briefly threatened the lead but collapsed in the “Bear Trap” closing stretch of holes.

Lowry made a blistering start to his round on Saturday with birdies at his first, third and fourth holes. The Offaly man kept his momentum going with a superb par at the eighth after a wayward drive led to a penalty shot, but a 140-yard approach over a bunker to four feet set up a par.

Lowry birdied the 10th to take the lead on his own and had a chance to extend his lead on the 11th but his birdie putt agonisingly stayed on the edge of the hole. He fell out of the lead after a short par miss from inside three feet at 13th hole, as Austin Eckroat birdied, before two more good birdies chances on 14 and 15 just missed.


Lowry made no mistake on the 16th, however, after a brilliant approach again to six feet and a birdie to get to 12 under. On the final hole, the 36-year-old hit it into the bunker in two on the par 5, but hit a superb bunker shot to close to finish in 66 strokes. His score of 13-under-par was matched by 42-year-old English journeyman David Skinns, and American Eckroat. Five players are on 10 under.

McIlroy suffered an up-and-down day on the greens after a frustrating 18 putts on the front nine led to him hitting the turn in one-over 36 after a three-putt from 24 feet on the ninth. On the back nine, however, he made birdie putts from 10 feet and 23 feet, before a great wedge to three feet on the 13th made it three birdies in four holes to get within two of the lead.

McIlroy then had a nightmare finish at the “Bear Trap”. He bogeyed at the 15th after he failed to get up and down from the bunker at the back. On the 16th, a bad push with an iron ended up with his ball submerged in the water. The Northern Irishman took off his shoe and tried to play it, but failed to advance it out. After he failed to get up and down after a penalty drop, it meant a nightmare triple bogey. Another birdie miss from nine feet at the 17th followed, before a birdie at the 18th for a one-over-par round of 72 and seven under for the tournament, six shots behind Lowry.

Meanwhile on the DP World Tour, Tom McKibbin recovered well from two bogeys in his first two holes to stay within five shots of the lead at the SDC Championship in South Africa. A one-under-par round of 71 left him at six under, the leaders Daniel Brown and Connor Syme on 11 under.

On the LPGA Tour, Leona Maguire is tied 56th after another over-par round left her six over for the tournament at the HSBC Women’s World Championship in Singapore. Japanese player Ayaka Furue leads by two shots on 10 under.

On the LIV Golf Tour, Graeme McDowell is tied 47th in Jeddah as in-form Joaquin Niemann leads by two shots from Charl Schwartzel.

David Gorman

David Gorman

David Gorman is a sports journalist with The Irish Times