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Lowry leads with England’s Skinns as McIlroy fades after water blunder

Shane Lowry and England’s David Skinns are part of a share of the lead heading into the final round of the PGA Tour’s Cognizant Classic, as Rory McIlroy slipped out of contention after a costly error.

Lowry followed back-to-back 67s with a five-under 66 on Saturday at PGA National, while Skinns – who hadn’t made a cut on the PGA Tour since 2022 and has never finished higher than tied-29th – also carded a third-round 66 to move to 13 under.

The pair are joined in a three-way tie at the top by American Austin Eckroat, who posted a three-under 68, with the trio holding a three-shot buffer over a group of five players tied-fourth containing France’s Victor Perez and Scotland’s Martin Laird.

Min Woo Lee, Jacob Bridgeman and Kevin Yu complete the quintet on 10 under, while McIlroy fell six behind after a triple-bogey at the par-four 16th saw him stutter to a one-over 72.

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Rory McIlroy got in the water to take a shot in the third round of the Cognizant Classic, but even then it didn’t quite go to plan…

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Lowry birdied the first and picked up a shot at the par-five third after missing his 15-foot eagle try, then holed from 20 feet at the next before cancelling out a birdie at the 10th by failing to save par from close range at the 12th.

The Irishman responded by birdieing two of his last three holes to set the clubhouse target, with Lowry looking for his first worldwide win since the 2022 BMW PGA Championship and maiden PGA Tour success on American soil.

Kildare , Ireland - 10 September 2023; Shane Lowry of Ireland on the 18th green after the final round of the Horizon Irish Open Golf Championship at The K Club in Straffan, Kildare. (Photo By Ramsey Cardy/Sportsfile via Getty Images)
Image: Shane Lowry has dropped to world No 57 after playing only four times since Europe’s Ryder Cup win

“I’ve obviously played quite well over the last few days,” Lowry said. “I’ll take nothing for granted. I’ll prepare as best I can in the morning, do the same thing I’ve been doing all week, and go out there and give it myself.

“If my best is good enough tomorrow, that will be amazing. If not, we’ll be back to the drawing board on Monday.”

Skinns, the world No 278 who has missed the first four cuts of the season on the PGA Tour, bolstered his hopes of a Cinderella story after making five birdies in a bogey-free third round.

“I wouldn’t say nerves, I’ve just been waiting a long time to be in this spot,” Skinns said. “It’s more I’m excited to be here. I’m trying to make every moment as good as it can be. I’m just really excited.”

What happened to McIlroy?

McIlroy lost ground on the leaders after opening with eight straight pars and fell further behind when he missed from three feet to save par at the ninth, only to get up and down from a greenside bunker to take advantage of the par-five next.

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The Northern Irishman rolled in from 20 feet at the 12th and pitched to close range at the 13th to register back-to-back birdies and get back within two of the lead, but dropped a shot at the par-three 15th after finding sand off the tee.

McIlroy sent his approach at the par-four next into the hazard and unsuccessfully attempted to hack out of the water, having taken off a shoe to play the shot, then elected to take a penalty drop before pitching to seven feet and two-putting for a triple-bogey seven.

Image: McIlroy has finished tied-66th and tied-24th in his first two PGA Tour starts this season

The former world No 1 missed a birdie opportunity from a similar distance at the par-three next, before a two-putt birdie at the par-five last left him with six strokes back in tied-26th.

Billy Horschel also heads into the final day on seven under and England’s Matt Fitzpatrick is a further stroke back, while Robert MacIntyre is tied-58th after a level-par 71 kept him at two under.

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