‘A special thing to happen’ – Shane Lowry celebrates hole-in-one as Anirban Lahiri leads 2022 Players Championship golf
Shane Lowry hit the 10th hole-in-one at the fabled 17th hole in the 40-year history of the Players Championship at Sawgrass before the unheralded World No 322 Anirban Lahiri warmed to the theme of defying the odds in Florida on Sunday.
Lowry’s reaction was a joy to behold after watching his ball land 10 feet beyond the pin on the 124-yard par 3, spin back and drop into the hole, prompting wild celebrations from the Irishman, the galleries and his Ryder Cup colleague Ian Poulter, playing alongside him for the delayed third round.
“You play this game, just special things happen sometimes,” said the 2019 Open champion, who is perched on five under, four strokes behind leader Lahiri, with four holes left of his third round having started from the 10th tee.
“Not only that, it put me back in the tournament somewhat. So it was amazing. It’s been a long day today, and I’m glad to make the call and finish well today. Played the 17 hole twice and did it in three shots, so it doesn’t owe me anything.
“I’m excited for tomorrow now. If it’s a long day tomorrow, I can do something hopefully in the morning and finish it off in the afternoon.”
Lahiri had as much to celebrate as Lowry as he enjoyed a birdie in fading light on the par-5 11th hole to enjoy sole ownership of the lead on nine under ahead of the fifth and final day of an event ravaged by almost biblical weather conditions over the first three days.
Lahiri, who shared fifth place at the 2015 US PGA Championship, last won an event in his homeland at the 2015 Indian Open and has missed three cuts in his last four outings on the PGA Tour, but is remarkably six under with seven holes to play of the PGA Tour’s $20m flagship event.
“As long as it happens, and that’s the belief you’ve got to have, and that’s the commitment you’ve got to have.”
American duo Tom Hoge and Harold Varner III are a shot adrift on minus eight with England’s Paul Casey on seven under at the halfway point of his third round.
The third round is due to resume at 8am (12pm GMT) with all 71 players still to complete their respective rounds.
Casey is bidding to emulate Sandy Lyle (1987) and Rory McIlroy (2019) as the only British winner of the sport’s self-styled fifth major and first English champion. His recovery has been remarkable after starting the event with a triple bogey at the par-4 10th in his two-under 70 on Thursday.
He has gone 42 holes without dropping a shot to enhance his thinking at the Stadium Course.
“I’ve got momentum. I feel good about the position I’m in. Yeah, and if you’re playing well, it’s nice to keep playing,” he said.
Defending champion Justin Thomas remains a viable option to become the first man to win back-to-back titles in the 49th Players Championship. He sits at minus four with seven holes remaining of his third round with World No 1 Jon Rahm hardly a spent force on two under with six holes to play of the outward nine.
Rory McIlroy was right on the cut for the final two rounds of plus two, but remains at three over with nine holes to play of his third round.
Rain, thunderstorms and winds amid plummeting temperatures have forced embattled tournament organisers to pencil in a Monday finish for the first time since 48-year-old Fred Funk became the oldest winner of the Players in 2005.
The foreboding skies overhead have left the weathered event battling to escape a funk, but it could yet be a enlivening finale after staggering beyond 36 holes earlier on Sunday.
The itinerary is to conclude the third round around lunchtime with the fourth and final round starting at 1pm (5pm GMT) ahead of a conclusion around 6:30pm local time, but is dangerous to assume smooth passage when the weather has had other plans this week.
With 31 players within five strokes of the lead ahead of the completion of the third round at Sawgrass, the chase for the game’s richest prize of $3.6m (£2,746,800) is likely to provide the viewing public with a manic Monday to remember.