Shane Lowry knows all about unexpected victories in tough conditions and another at Chambers Bay would continue Europe’s remarkable run of success in the US Open.
Graeme McDowell’s win at Pebble Beach in 2010 was the first by a European player since Tony Jacklin in 1970, but was followed by Rory McIlroy’s record-breaking win triumph at Congressional 12 months later, Justin Rose’s victory at Merion in 2013 and Martin Kaymer’s wire-to-wire success at Pinehurst.
McIlroy and Rose were among the favourites for more success at the start of the week, but on a hard, fast links-style course it has been Lowry who coped best with the testing conditions.
The 28-year-old from Offaly, who won the Irish Open in miserable weather at County Louth in 2009 while still an amateur, entered the final round just three shots off the lead shared by Masters champion Jordan Spieth, Dustin Johnson, Jason Day and Branden Grace.
And he did so with probably the most positive attitude of any of the leading contenders despite the course coming in for strident criticism from players past and present.
“I said to my caddie coming up the last, it’s probably one of the most enjoyable days I’ve had at a golf course in a while,” Lowry said after a second consecutive 70 in Saturday’s third round. “Being in contention in a tournament like this, what more do you want?
“The course is tough. It’s very tough. But I think it’s playable. I think it’s been getting a lot of stick. The greens are not the best surfaces, but if you hit a good putt nine times out of 10 it goes in. Sometimes you hit a good putt and it misses. That’s the thing a lot of players are focusing on.
“It’s tough to hit greens but at the end of the day it’s a US Open. If you missed the green at Pinehurst last year you couldn’t chip. I think that was a little more unfair than this is.”
Asked if such an attitude was vital, Lowry - who has been wearing black all week in tribute to the Irish students killed when a balcony collapsed in Berkeley - added: “Yeah, I said it about three or four months ago.
“A couple of guys came up and played here and then I saw a few comments on Twitter from a few people. Talking about the golf course before you get here is not necessarily the right thing to do.
“You want to get here and see it and see how it plays. When I got here on Monday I thought, yeah, it’s a bit funky, like the first (hole) if you miss it left. But the more you play it, the more it grows on you and that’s what I felt.”