Morikawa and Schauffele end third day of US PGA at top as Lowry equals record

<span>Shane Lowry looks at Justin Rose after equalling the major record with a 62 at Valhalla.</span><span>Photograph: Michael Reaves/Getty Images</span>
Shane Lowry looks at Justin Rose after equalling the major record with a 62 at Valhalla.Photograph: Michael Reaves/Getty Images

It was only going to take something special to switch discussion around this US PGA Championship away from Scottie Scheffler and his brush with Louisville law enforcement. The world No 1 unravelled on day three here, which was entirely understandable given the strain associated with four charges, including one for assaulting a police officer.

Shane Lowry took it upon himself to create a fresh and uplifting storyline. The Irishman stood on Valhalla’s 18th green over a putt of 11ft 6in which could have created history. If he found the bottom of the cup with his birdie attempt, he would have posted the first 61 in major history.

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For about the first time on the day, Lowry’s ball refused to cooperate. The 2019 Open champion had to settle for only the fifth 62 in one of golf’s four prime events. Lowry’s reaction as his ball missed the cup, so narrowly to the left, demonstrated that he knew fine well what had been within his grasp.

“It is probably the most disappointed anyone can ever be shooting 62,” he said. “I knew what was at stake. When you go out in 29, you think: ‘Wow, I have a good day going here.’ You have 10, that’s a pretty gettable par five. I think when I holed the putt on 14, I was like: ‘Here we go, yeah, this is a good chance.’

“But 15 is tricky and 16 is a tough hole. I felt like I played them very well. Obviously to birdie 17, that’s when I knew I just really wanted to hit a good tee shot on the last. I pushed it a ­little bit and laid it up and I hit a great wedge shot and obviously just missed the putt. Yeah, it was in my mind from about 14 onwards.” A Lowry smile followed. “Actually I’ve shot 60 before. I had a putt for a 59. And I didn’t make it.”

Until the last, Lowry’s putting display was stunning. The 13th ­witnessed his marquee moment, as he converted for a birdie from 37ft. There were also heroics at the 10th, where the world No 43 did amazingly well to save par after a shot into a bunker rolled back into the very hole it had created when pitching.

The bigger picture shows that, at 13 under par, he is very much in the hunt as he pursues a second major title. “I’ve sort of felt all season that if I could warm my putter up that I could be dangerous,” he said. “I kept saying it. Here I am going out in one of the last groups tomorrow, with a chance in this tournament. It’s a nice position to be in.” Collin Morikawa and Xander Schauffele’s 15 under par leads Sahith Theegala by one with 18 Kentucky holes to play.

Justin Rose, whose 64 in Lowry’s company was made to look ordinary, knew precisely what was transpiring with his playing partner. “I said to my caddie: ‘He needs two birdies in the last four holes here.’ So then he obviously made a great birdie at 17 and unfortunately missed the fairway on 18. But I knew exactly what I was watching, let’s put it that way.” The winner of the 2013 US Open is just one adrift of Lowry’s 54-hole tally.

Scheffler’s woeful start to day three thankfully only related to his golf. He made a double-bogey at the 2nd before shipping further shots over the next two holes.

The Masters champion rallied slightly thereafter but by the time he made a bogey at the 14th, he was plus three for his day. Too many top players now sit between the Texan and the summit of the leaderboard. Barring something miraculous – Valhalla in this state is rather accessible – Scheffler is playing for a place.

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Rory McIlroy cut a rueful figure after his 68. The world No 2 and winner of his past two PGA Tour events was within touching distance of the lead after producing four birdies in a row from the 7th. He missed subsequent opportunities, which looked even more costly as the Northern Irishman dropped shots at the 14th and 16th.

“There was a six- or seven-hole stretch there where the putter cooled on me,” McIlroy said. “Depending on what happens tomorrow, if I look back on the tournament, I may rue that stretch where I wasn’t able to hole any putts. I putted really well on Thursday and over the last couple days the ­putter has sort of deserted me.”