By Ron Patey

When the rubber hit the road during Sunday’s final round of the WGC-Bridgestone Invitational, Shane Lowry won his first PGA Tour event. By believing in his game and having the traction to fearlessly take on the dream-killing tight track, the Irishman came out ahead at the Firestone Country Club. Lowry started the day two strokes behind third-round co-leaders, Jim Furyk and Justin Rose. Lowry’s good fortune panned out as the two superstars skidded late out of first place, both carded 2-over 72s to finish together tied in third place.  

The stout Irishman posted a stellar bogey-free round of 66 while on his way to steering himself into contention. Lowry found himself in a two-shot lead at No. 10 where he recovered from a loose tee-shot to fly the approach over a mature tree. His follow-up shot stuck within kick-in distance from the cup. Ireland’s newest golf hero had another slight hiccup at No. 14 as he clanged his drive into a fairway bunker. Lowry then chunked the sand shot 60 yards short of the green and left the third effort 15 feet from the hole. However, he shook off the shaky spell and grinded in the mid-range putt to keep a two-shot advantage.

Second-place finisher Bubba Watson matched Lowry’s 4-under total and even shrunk the deficit to a single shot after making a birdie at 17. Watson then walloped a mammoth drive at 18 and left himself with about a 29-footer to tie. He missed while Lowry made birdie to cap the two-shot triumph.

Next On The Tee: PGA Championship

Jordan Spieth sets his sights on victory this week at Whistling Straits to join Ben Hogan (1953) and Tiger Woods (2000) as the only three players in the history of the game to win three majors in a single season. Spieth also comes into the last major of the year on a mission to become the world’s top ranked player. The guy the 22-year-old Texan is looking to buck out of top spot, defending PGA champ Rory McIlroy, is back after recovering from a ruptured ligament in his ankle that he picked up during a soccer game with his pals. The dream match-up fans have been waiting for becomes even more of a scrumptious showdown since Spieth and McIlroy have been grouped together with Open Champion, Zach Johnson, for the first two rounds of the major event. The threesome owns the previous five major PGA titles.

Players with something extra to shoot for this week are Dustin Johnson and Martin Kaymer. Another charge at the title can help DJ forever erase the memories of the wacky penalty he took in 2010. For grounding his club in a tiny sandy area at the 72nd hole at Whistling Straits, the penalty bounced him out of a playoff spot with the  eventual champ Kaymer in the 2010 version of the championship .

Kaymer returns to the scene of his first major triumph in search of getting his game back on track at a place that holds happy memories. The German has turned in a scruffy PGA season so far, with only one top-10 and two top-25s in 11 starts.   

Whistling Straits (Straits Course) plays 7,500-plus yards and is a par 72.

Favorites: Jordan Spieth, Bubba Watson, Jason Day, Zach Johnson, Henrik Stenson

Players To Watch: Rory McIlroy, Hideki Matsuyama, Dustin Johnson, Martin Kaymer, Rickie Fowler

Ron Patey covered the golf industry for 21 years as a special sections editor with Sun Media. During the past five years, Patey has been a golf writer for Examiner.com.