2024 Cognizant Classic scores: Shane Lowry among three tied for lead after Round 3 at PGA National

For the third year in a row at PGA National, Shane Lowry will play in one of the final two groups on Sunday. The Irishman was near flawless Saturday around the par 71 course en route to carding a 5-under 66. Lowry stands at 13 under for the tournament and in a share of the lead with David Skinns and Austin Eckroat.

While Lowry’s résumé is filled with victories at major championships, World Golf Championships and the DP World Tour’s flagship event, it is actually Eckroat who has been contending for trophies more recently. The former Oklahoma State Cowboy has been making a habit of being a weekend fixture the past year and should put this experience to good use Sunday as he searches for his first career victory on the PGA Tour.

A leader at the halfway point at the 2024 Sony Open and one of the 54-hole leaders at the 2023 Byron Nelson last summer, Eckroat is maturing in front of our very eyes. The PGA Tour sophomore should be comfortable in this setting, as should Lowry, while Skinns’ composure remains a bit of an unknown.

Commanding a share of a lead after a round for the first time in his PGA Tour career, the 42-year-old is playing with house money. He has yet to finish inside the top 25 in 32 prior starts and has made just 13 cuts, so to say the Englishman’s performance is a surprise would be underselling it. However, as we have seen in 2024 with the bevy of long shot winners, any and everything remains on the table — even more so at a treacherous golf course like PGA National.

The leaders

T1. Shane Lowry, David Skinns, Austin Eckroat (-13)

Lowry has been hitting the cover off the golf ball with his irons as he leads this field in strokes gained approach by more than a stroke. It doesn’t necessarily come as a surprise; the Irishman has been known to start slow on the West Coast and use the Cognizant Classic as a springboard for the rest of his season.

He looks for his first worldwide win since the 2022 BMW PGA Championship and first win in the United States since the 2015 WGC Bridgestone Invitational. If there was ever a venue for Lowry to break this drought in the states, it’s PGA National. He probably should have won this tournament in 2022, finished top five a season ago and must attend to unfinished business.

Other contenders

T4. Victor Perez, Min Woo Lee, Jacob Bridgeman, Martin Laird, Kevin Yu (-10)
T9. Andrew Novak, C.T. Pan (-9)

Despite his star power, Lee is one of those players who is on the outside looking in for signature events. A 66 on Moving Day has set the scene for a pivotal Sunday for the Australian as he aims to play himself into next week’s Arnold Palmer Invitational via the Aon Swing 5 or even a victory. It hasn’t been the start Lee envisioned entering the season, but he is continuing to learn as he undergoes new experiences for the first time.

“I think just a bit of expectations,” Lee said of being too hard on himself early this season. “I think I’m a great player, and I feel like I could come out here and win. But sometimes that’s not the reality. Coming 15th or 20th isn’t actually that bad, and I told myself to just stick in there even though things might go the wrong way. A good finish might be the difference later on in the year.”

Bear Trap bites Rory back

After playing the three-hole stretch in 2 under Friday, Rory McIlroy played Nos. 15-17 in a 4-over fashion Saturday and may have sunk his tournament hopes in the process. McIlroy made bogey from the greenside bunker on the par-3 15th before another poor iron swing on the 16th. 

McIlroy’s approach into the par 4 found the water, but with the ball visible, he decided to give it a go from the hazard. Plopping his third in the air, McIlroy witnessed his ball ultimately return to the same spot in the hazard. Only then to take a penalty, McIlroy carded a triple bogey and went from 10 under to 6 under in a two-hole span.

How is PGA National playing?

There were a lot of unpleasant golf fans on the internet Thursday — even more so than most days — due to the lack of difficulty players had at PGA National. Round 1 scoring average was 69.55 and led some to believe this week’s Cognizant Classic would materialize into one of the easiest editions in tournament history. 

A rainy month and shorter rough may have contributed to Thursday’s play, but PGA National has leveled out the last two days. With the par-4 10th turned into a par 5 this year, PGA National is likely to yield a winning score similar to last year. Chris Kirk needed 266 strokes (14 under) in 2023, and with the leaders at 13 under through 54 holes, it is worth reminding that a winning score of 18 under would match that 266 number.

2024 Cognizant Classic updated odds and picks

Odds via Sportsline consensus

  • Shane Lowry: 8/5
  • Austin Eckroat: 18/5
  • David Skinns: 7-1
  • Min Woo Lee: 12-1
  • Victor Perez: 25-1
  • Kevin Yu: 25-1

The top of this leaderboard hasn’t done a ton of winning in recent memory, so let’s get creative. Lee is player with plenty of firepower and has been performing strong from tee to green all week. He finally found his putter Saturday — one of his better clubs typically — and if that continues into Sunday, he should give the leaders a good scare from three back at 12-1.

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