AKRON, Ohio – Two weeks after letting the U.S. Open trophy slip through his fingers, Shane Lowry admitted that the rules fiasco that overshadowed the tournament’s conclusion affected his play at Oakmont far more than he originally indicated.
Lowry began the final round with a four-shot lead, but he stumbled to a closing 76 and ultimately finished three shots behind Dustin Johnson. In so doing, he became just the third player in U.S. Open history to forfeit a 54-hole lead of at least four shots, and the first to do so since Payne Stewart in 1998.
While it served as a career-best finish in a major for the Irishman, Lowry noted that in the immediate aftermath it was difficult to keep his mind from straying to what might have been.
“The few days after the U.S. Open were quite tough,” Lowry said Wednesday at the WGC-Bridgestone Invitational. “Anytime I was on my own, I just – I was thinking what if I had done this, or if this would have happened, and I was driving myself mad.”
Lowry’s title bid at Oakmont was also hampered by the scenario playing out in the group in front of him, where Johnson played the final seven holes unsure of whether he would receive a one-shot penalty for causing his ball to move on the fifth green.
While the rest of the players in contention were informed Johnson might be penalized after the round, it created a scenario of unprecedented uncertainty that impacted Lowry’s play down the stretch.
“I did my interviews afterwards and I said it didn’t affect me at all,” Lowry said. “But when I look back on it, it did.”
Lowry relayed a story whereby Lee Westwood’s caddie, Billy Foster, spoke with Lowry’s caddie behind the 15th green and informed him that Johnson likely was not going to be penalized.
“We then stood on the 16th tee and went, ‘Right, we’re two behind,’ whereas we were only one behind,” Lowry said.
While the penalty ultimately didn’t affect the tournament outcome, Lowry believes that Johnson could have “argued his case” more emphatically with the USGA if the penalty had made the difference in whose name would be engraved on the trophy.
“He might have got away with that penalty shot if he really needed to. I mean, it would have been interesting to see if the two of us had been tied, or I would have won by one, whether Dustin would have got penalized that shot or not,” he said. “I think we might have had a different scenario then.”