Feeding Off Each Other, Shane Lowry and Justin Rose Surge Into Contention at the PGA

The two major champions turned in Saturday's two lowest rounds, perfectly synchronized for a while at Valhalla.
Shane Lowry (left) and Justin Rose turned in Saturday's low rounds while playing together.
Shane Lowry (left) and Justin Rose turned in Saturday's low rounds while playing together. / Adam Cairns-USA TODAY Sports

LOUISVILLE, Ky. — A couple of blokes took a stroll through the bluegrass Saturday, burning Valhalla Golf Club to the ground to join a Sunday cavalry charge in the 106th PGA Championship.

Englishman Justin Rose, a 43-year-old who described himself as being in “the Indian Summer of my career,” shot a 64, the second-best round of the day. The only one lower came from his playing partner, Irishman Shane Lowry, who tied the major-championship record with a 62—and had a makeable 11-foot putt for 61.

“There was definitely that urgency to feel like you wanted to stay on track and keep up the momentum today to try to give yourself a shot going into tomorrow,” Rose said. “It was the classic moving day, and job well done.”

Job well done, and harmoniously done. The two were playing synchronized golf for the first eight holes, each carding pars on Nos. 1, 6 and 8 and birdies on Nos. 2, 3, 4, 5, and 7. Lowry was 5 under through eight holes and still unable to wrest away first-tee honors from Rose.

“What am I going to have to do to get the honor off you today?” Lowry asked Rose after the 5th hole. “It was pretty cool out there, the two of us. It was nice to kind of bounce off each other and feed off each other the whole day.”

Finally, on the 9th hole, the two fell out of lockstep. Rose took a bogey and Lowry birdied for a front-nine 29. On the homeward nine, Lowry put three more birdies on the card, a big hitter who might have had the finest putting day of his life. 

After struggling with the flat stick most of the year, he made 157 feet of birdie putts Saturday. That included dropping bombs of 37 and 32 feet on consecutive holes, the 13th and 14th, to really engage the gallery and send roars echoing through the course.

“I've sort of felt all season that if I could warm my putter up that I could be dangerous,” Lowry said. “I kept saying it. Here I am going out in one of the last groups tomorrow, one of the last few groups tomorrow with a chance in this tournament. That's nice.”

On a day when Thursday–Friday leader Xander Schauffele couldn’t pull away, Collin Morikawa was good but not transcendent, and Scottie Scheffler lost his jailhouse juice, Lowry and Rose seized the moment. On a perfect afternoon for scoring, they were the stars of the go-low show.

They’re both now prominently in the championship mix—Lowry two shots behind the leaders, Rose three. Each is seeking a second major. Rose’s lone win came at the 2013 U.S. Open, with 12 top-10 finishes since then. Lowry’s major was the 2019 British Open; he’s had a pair of top 10s since then (the 2021 PGA and ’22 Masters), and four that predated his Open win. They’ve both been on winning European Ryder Cup teams, and Rose also won the gold medal at the 2016 Olympics in Rio de Janeiro.

Both men are hungry to win a major again, but not desperate. That distinction alleviates some pressure.

“If I hadn't won one, then yeah, it's like a bar of soap,” Rose said. “You're trying to squeeze it and it becomes more and more loose at times. Absolutely, if I choose to go into tomorrow and say, ‘Listen, nothing to lose, already got one of these things, let's give it a run,’ that's a good mindset for sure.

“I think obviously Championship Sundays, yeah, you hope to lean into the experience side.

I don't think it counts for much Thursdays, Fridays, even Saturdays. But it counts right—in the toughest moments, it can count.”

Lowry hasn’t been in the midst of quite as many major stretch battles as Rose, but he’s had his fair share. And he knows the difference, historically, between winning one major and winning two.

“Obviously you come here the start of every major championship, and you know what it means to win one of them,” Lowry said. “I’ve been fortunate to do it before, and to win one is pretty good, but to win multiple, you're kind of a bit of a different level.

“Yeah, it would mean a lot to me tomorrow. I'll just go out and give my best. I go out and fight hard. I've been in this position a few times before … and hopefully I can bring some of that with me tomorrow and just give it everything.”

If you thought the three-horse photo finish in the Kentucky Derby was wild two weeks ago, we could have twice that many charging for the wire in the same city Sunday. Morikawa and Schauffele (both 15 under) will be the final pairing. Six pursuers starting the day within three shots.

That includes Justin Rose at 12 under and Shane Lowry at 13 under, coming off rounds of 64 and 62, respectively. They were the two hottest players on the course Saturday, maximizing their moving day opportunity in a tandem torching of Valhalla. We’ll see if they can do it again with the Wanamaker Trophy within reach.

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Pat Forde


Pat Forde is a senior writer for Sports Illustrated, covering college football and basketball as well as the Olympics and horse racing. He co-hosts the College Football Enquirer podcast and is a football analyst on the Big Ten Network. He previously worked for Yahoo Sports, ESPN and The (Louisville) Courier-Journal. Pat has won a remarkable 28 Associated Press Sports Editors writing contest awards; been published three times in Best American Sports Writing; and was nominated for the 1990 Pulitzer Prize. A past president of the U.S. Basketball Writers Association and member of the Football Writers Association of America, Pat lives in Louisville with his wife. They have three children, all of whom were college swimmers.