OAKMONT, Pa. — Shane Lowry placed the putter behind his golf ball on the 16th green Saturday to line up a long birdie putt. He then saw the ball move ever so slightly backward. No one else saw the ball change positions.
But Lowry knew it was a rules violation, and he acted immediately. He called a penalty on himself even though he knew that lost stroke could topple him from the upper echelon of the leaderboard in the second round at the 116th United States Open.
As if the devilish Oakmont Country Club course were not grueling enough, Lowry, an Irishman ranked 41st in the world, was punishing himself.
Lowry’s gesture was noble, but don’t think it was easy on him. Once he re-marked the ball — he was now facing a 30-foot par putt — he stepped away with a look of anguish. He grasped his putter with both hands and placed it behind his neck as if he wanted to break it over his shoulders. And he turned his eyes…