May 26th, 2024

Rory McIlroy and Shane Lowry rally to win Zurich Classic team event in a playoff

By Brett Martel, The Associated Press on April 28, 2024.

NEW ORLEANS (AP) – Rory McIlroy and Shane Lowry received a standing ovation when they showed up at historic, creole French Quarter restaurant Arnaud’s on the eve of their final round at the Zurich Classic of New Orleans team event.

They also had the largest, loudest galleries at the TPC Louisiana, where the charismatic, 34-year-old McIlroy, had not previously played.

“He’s getting old, but he still moves the needle a little bit,” Lowry joked as McIlroy chuckled. “Rory brings a crowd and people love him and we’ve gotten a lot of love in New Orleans. We’ve had just the best week.”

McIlroy and Lowry won Sunday, beating Chad Ramey and Martin Trainer with a nervy par on the first hole of a playoff.

Trainer pushed a 6-foot par putt to the right of the cup to end it, with Lowry lifting a laughing McIlroy off the ground with a bear hug on the green.

“To win any PGA Tour event is very cool, but to do it with one of your closest friends – we’ve known each other for a long, long time, probably like over 20 years,” McIlroy said. “To think about where we met and where we’ve come from, to be on this stage and do this together – really, really cool journey that we’ve been a part of.”

McIlroy, of Northern Ireland, won his 25th PGA Tour title and first of the season. Lowry, of Ireland, claimed his third PGA Tour victory. Each walked away with about $1.29 million and 400 FedEx Cup points apiece.

“People have come out in the thousands to support us. It’s not lost on me how cool that is,” McIlroy said. “Every time I get to play in front of thousands of people, the little boy in me just thinks it’s so cool and so exciting.”

The Irish tandem closed with a 4-under 68 in the alternate-shot final round in windy conditions to match Ramey and Trainer at 25-under 263.

Ramey and Trainer began the day tied for 27th at 16 under and shot to the top of the leaderboard with nine birdies between the seventh and 18th holes. They tied the alternate-shot tournament record of 63, but then had to wait nearly three hours to see if their lead would stand up.

“That was to our advantage,” McIlroy said. “I feel for Martin and Chad a little bit. They played an unbelievable round of golf. To shoot 63 out there in those conditions in foursomes is super impressive.”

Trainer opened the playoff hole by pulling his drive into the left rough,. Ramey also yanked his approach left off the cart path and into the wall below the suites around the 18th green. Trainer then chipped short before Ramey finally got his team on the green.

“Obviously, golf is hard, and sometimes it doesn’t go your way,” Trainer said. “We did the best we could and had a chance, and that’s all you can ask for, really.”

Ramey said he and Trainer were disappointed, but stressed that, “There’s a lot of really good things to take from this week, and that’s what I’m going to do.”

Lowry narrowly missed his mark twice on the playoff hole, putting an approach in a bunker and then leaving a birdie putt for the victory on the edge of the cup.

But Lowry had come through when he had to on the final regulation hole, forcing the playoff with a short birdie putt on the par-5 18th, capitalizing on McIlroy’s deft lofted chip from the apron that stopped close to the pin.

Ryan Brehm and Mark Hubbard nearly made the playoff as well. Needing a birdie, they went long off the 18th green on their second shot. Hubbard’s chip up the back apron stopped short on the fringe, but Brehm still nearly sank a birdie putt, leaving the ball near the right edge of the cup as the crowd gasped. They finished third at 24 under.

Former BYU teammates Patrick Fishburn and Zach Blair, the leaders through three rounds, were still tied for the lead heading to the par-3 17th, only to make a double bogey after Blair’s tee shot landed right of the green and Fishburn chipped short. They wound up in a four-way tie for fourth at 23 under.

McIlroy and Lowry began the day two shots off the lead. They opened the round with Lowry’s tee shot into the woods on the right side of the hole, and they bogeyed two of their first three holes before beginning their charge on the seventh, where McIlroy made the first of four birdie putts over the next five holes.

McIlroy had two mis-hits down the stretch that could have been costly, leaving an approach shot well short of the green on the par-4 13th and hitting short into a fairway bunker on the short par-4 16th.

Lowry chipped to about 10 feet and McIlroy saved par on 13. On 16, Lowry found the left side of the green with his approach shot from the sand and McIlroy sank a right-breaking birdie putt to lift his team into a tie for first at 25-under.

“Being able to rely on each other a little bit, I think that’s what really helped us,” McIlroy said.

The Irishmen bogeyed 17 after Lowry’s faded tee shot landed in the gallery right of the green and McIlroy’s chip over the ridge of a bunker ran past the hole.

That meant they would have to have a birdie on 18 to force a playoff. They got it, starting with McIlroy’s clutch, booming tee shot into the water-lined fairway.

“The reason that Shane and I both started to play golf is because we thought it was fun at some stage in our life,” McIlroy said. “Reinjecting a little bit of that fun back into it in a week like this week, it can always help.”

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AP golf: https://apnews.com/hub/golf

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