Lowry 'bitterly disappointed' with runner-up finish

Jim Litke
Associated Press

Oakmont, Pa. — Shane Lowry stood on the 18th green for an awards presentation at the U.S. Open, just how he planned.

It’s where Lowry stood, however, that will stick with the affable Irishman for a while. Maybe a long while.

While Dustin Johnson donned the gold medal, held the trophy and got the kiss from the girl after exorcising some very real major championship meltdowns of his own while conquering Oakmont in the final round Sunday, Lowry rubbed his beard and tried to smile through the anguish.

It wasn’t easy. Not even close. Up by four when he stepped onto the first tee, Lowry settled for a share of second after a 6-over 76 and a four-round total of 1-under 279, three shots back of the beaming Johnson. The 29-year-old’s best finish at a major was little consolation.

“Bitterly disappointed, standing here,” Lowry said. “And, you know, it’s not easy to get yourself in a position I got myself in today. It was there for the taking and I didn’t take it.”

There was no singular moment where things went wrong, just 18 holes of average to mediocre golf when something far better was required. His round included seven bogeys against just one birdie and a string of three-putts on the back nine that gave Johnson all the breathing room he needed despite a one-stroke penalty when the ball moved as he was getting ready to address it on the fifth green.

“I just kept on hitting, you know, OK shots,” Lowry said. “It wasn’t even great shots, it wasn’t even bad shots. Kept hitting it 25, 30, 35 feet. On these greens, it’s tricky. Kept leaving myself a lot of work to do.”

Too much, far too much, to keep pace with Johnson. Lowry’s struggled played in stark contrast to his near flawless Saturday, when he cruised through 32 holes in 3 under during a marathon day that sent him soaring up the leaderboard. When he finished the third round off early Sunday morning with birdies on the 15th and 17th, he had a four-shot lead and unknown Andrew Landry as his playing partner.

Lowry described his dreamlike tour of Oakmont on Saturday as the most comfortable he’s ever felt on a golf course. That comfort disappeared in the late Sunday heat. By the turn he was trailing Johnson by a shot, well aware of how the towering American was doing thanks to the reaction from a solidly pro-Johnson crowd shouting “USA! USA!” at nearly every turn.

Still, Lowry was in it and had a wedge in his hands on No. 14 when he failed to get it close. Three putts later the deficit had grown.

“It just kind of spiraled out of control from there,” Lowry said. “It was one of those where I’d give anything to have that wide shot on 14 back again.”

It grew another shot several minutes later when his comeback putt on the 15th slid by. The championship slipped out of reach on the 16th, when he couldn’t get down in two from 49 feet on the par-3.

Lowry left Oakmont quickly for the airport, where a long flight to Ireland — and a long time to analyze what happened on Sunday — awaits.

“The more I think about it, the more upset I get,” he said. “So that’s the way golf is.”

Andrew Landry’s opening drive rocketed into the right rough alongside the fairway. From there, his first approach shot nosedived into the left rough alongside the green.

Somehow, things went downhill from there.

By the time the final round was over, what began like a story line cribbed from the movie “Caddyshack” — “Cinderella boy about to become the U.S. Open champion!” — turned into an all-too-familiar, crash-and-burn tale from more than one final round of a major championship.

Playing in his first U.S. Open, as well as his first year on the PGA Tour, Landry signed for a dispiriting 78 and a 285 total, nine shots behind winner Dustin Johnson and tied for 15th place. A top-10 finish would’ve gotten him an exemption to next year’s Open and a top-four finish would’ve earned a berth to The Masters.

Difficult as that was, consider where he started.

Double birdie for Garcia

Sergio Garcia collected not one birdie but two at the par-3 eighth in the final round of the U.S. Open.

Garcia holed out from a greenside bunker to move to 2 under for the tournament and three shots behind then-leader Lowry. The Spaniard, still in search of his first major championship, noticed a small bird on the ground as he was making his way off the green. He picked it up and handed it to a tournament volunteer.

Spieth falters Sunday

No awkward awards ceremony for Jordan Spieth this time.

The defending U.S. Open champion shot a 5-over 75 in the final round of the tournament at Oakmont on Sunday to finish tied for 37th at 9 over. That’s his worst finish in a major in which he’s made the cut since tying for 44th at the 2013 British Open.

Spieth, who finished second at the Masters in April after blowing a five-shot lead late in the final round, had two birdies against five bogeys and one double bogey.

Danny Willett, who surged past Spieth to win at Augusta, also finished at 9 over following a 1-over 71 on Sunday.

Miller watch

There was another Johnny Miller Watch when Brooks Koepka got to 5 under through 11 holes.

He needed to shoot 2 under the rest of the way to match Miller, who shot a tournament and course-record 63 in the final round of the 1973 U.S. Open.

After bogeys at 1 and 3, Koepka made six birdies and an eagle over the next eight holes. He holed out from the fairway for the eagle at No. 5 and chipped in for birdie at 11.

Danish pro Thomas Bjorn tweeted: “62 and we don’t have to listen to Johnny Miller anymore.”

But after missing the next two birdie putts by inches, Koepka suffered four straight bogeys and finished with a 68. He finished tied for 15th at 4 over.