OAKMONT, PENNSYLVANIA: Irishman Shane Lowry had a first major title looming in his sights when he teed off on the par-four opening hole with a four-stroke lead in the final round of the weather-hit U.S. Open on Sunday.
The burly 29-year-old from Clara in County Offaly had birdied two of his last four holes for a five-under-par 65 when the marathon third round was finally completed earlier in the day to tighten his grip on the championship.
Lowry, who has looked unflappable at Oakmont Country Club on one of the toughest golf courses in the world, posted a seven-under total of 203 in pursuit of his second victory on the PGA Tour.
A win by him at Oakmont would earn Irish golf its 10th major title in a decade but he has several experienced campaigners chasing him who are also bidding for a first grand slam crown.
Sixth-ranked American Dustin Johnson, the tournament leader after 36 holes, was four strokes off the pace heading into the final round along with compatriot Andrew Landry, with England’s former world number one Lee Westwood a further stroke adrift.
Spaniard Sergio Garcia, a nine-times winner on the PGA Tour who has suffered several near-misses in the majors over the years, was at even par after 54 holes.
While danger lurked at every corner of a treacherous Oakmont layout running increasingly fast and firm under a blazing sun, the early starters on Sunday had shown that scoring opportunities were still plentiful.
Australia’s Marc Leishman picked up shots on the first three holes while American Brooks Koepka reeled off four consecutive birdies from the par-five fourth, then went birdie-eagle-birdie on nine, 10 and 11 to get to level-par for the tournament.
After a frustrating week at Oakmont where thunderstorms wreaked havoc by delaying the schedule for each of the first three rounds, the 116th U.S. Open was finally back on track on Sunday, and heading for its conclusion.
Lowry is seeking to become the third Irish golfer to win the U.S. Open, following Northern Irishmen Graeme McDowell (2010) and Rory McIlroy (2011), but the first from the Republic of Ireland.