Lowry fails to take his chances as Fowler produces gripping win

American produces birdie on the 18th to secure one-hole win over Offaly golfer

Shane Lowry  hits his tee shot on the fifth hole during round two of the World Golf Championship Cadillac Match Play at TPC Harding Park  in San Francisco, California. Photograph: Robert Laberge/Getty Images

Shane Lowry hits his tee shot on the fifth hole during round two of the World Golf Championship Cadillac Match Play at TPC Harding Park in San Francisco, California. Photograph: Robert Laberge/Getty Images

 

The great escape from Rickie Fowler, with Shane Lowry as the fall guy! The biggest sucker-punch of a remarkable match came at the end, as Lowry – somehow – lost out to Fowler at the WGC-Cadillac Championship at Harding Park in San Francisco where, time and time again, the Irishman seemed to have the American on the ropes.

But, time and time again, Fowler produced Houdini-like reflexes to stay alive until the death; and, having grasped at straws for much of the back nine, then produced a winning birdie on the 18th to somehow secure a one-hole win over Lowry.

In a bad second day for the Irish players in that particular group, Graeme McDowell – who was three up after eight holes – lost to Harris English.

With his second win from two, though, Fowler’s win over Lowry - winner over McDowell on day one - ensured that he would progress into the knockout phase ahead of Lowry, who dominated the match with Fowler only for the American to somehow halve hole after hole with long range putts and then get over the winning line on the last.

Fowler got first blood, winning the second hole with a par after the Offaly man missed the green with his tee shot to the 200 yards Par 3 and failed to get up-and-down from greenside rough. It was to serve as a wake-up call to Lowry, who responded by rolling in a 10 footer for birdie on the third to win the hole and go back all-square.

On the fourth, after a huge 342 yards drive down the fairway, Lowry hit a gap wedge approach in to five feet and sank the birdie putt to move one ahead. And it all seemed to be going Lowry’s way when, after the 11th was halved in birdies, he moved two holes up on the American with a winning birdie on the 12th.

As he has proven in Ryder Cup combat, Fowler showed he was up to the fight although given something of a helping hand by Lowry who bogeyed the 13th – where his par putt lipped out – and the 14th, where he drove into a fairway bunker. Those back-to-back bogeys by Lowry gave Fowler successive wins which brought the match back to all-square.

Fowler’s doggedness was again demonstrated on the 15th, where, after Lowry hit a stunning approach to inside one foot, the world number 13 responded by rolling in a 15-footer for a birdie to halve the hole and keep the duo locked together. There was a noticeable spring to Fowler’s gait as he moved off the green, having grabbed a halved hole against the head.

Greenside bunker

The 17th, a Par 3 of 230 yards, almost produced an ace from Lowry. His iron tee shot – the player twirling the club in his hands as he stared it down – hit the cup, evading the flag stick, and rolled 10 feet by. Fowler, for his part, kept the putter going like a magic wand and, unbelievably, rolled in a 25 footer for a par. Lowry failed to convert his birdie putt and, once again, Fowler survived to bring the match to the 18th hole.

On the Par 5, after near-identical drives, the pair flipped a coin to determine who would play first. As it happened, Lowry’s second found rough and he then put his approach into a greenside bunker, while Fowler reached the green in two.

But the drama continued when Fowler left his first putt some eight feet short. Lowry splashed out to a matter of inches, but Fowler – who had clung on for dear life through the homeward run – rolled in the birdie putt to claim a one hole win. How? Only Fowler could truly know.

“Shane’s a great player, played very well . . . I just happend to make some putts at the end. It was a hard fought match. I had my back up against the wall and needed to make those putts to just keep the match going,” said Fowler.

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