‘Freewheeling’ approach working for Shane Lowry

Shane Lowry. Picture: Lorraine O'Sullivan/Sharppix.

Shane Lowry is so superstitious he’d carry a horseshoe in his bag if his caddie would let him. But unlike Pádraig Harrington, he dare not tempt fate and look to closely under the bonnet to discover just why his engine is purring so sweetly this year.

He’s riding the wave, on a roll, enjoying a hot hand and while good putting has pumped confidence into his game, he attributes his rise from 90th to 35th in the world this year to attitude. That he will be without caddie Brian Martin for next week’s Dubai Duty Free Irish Open — the man who’s emphasised staying loose and enjoying the game as the key to unlocking his best golf — his only fear for Lahinch is the chance of Atlantic squalls and his own high hopes.

“It’s probably the best I’ve been playing and definitely the best first half of a season I have had in my whole career,” Lowry said in his capacity as a Paddy Power Golf Ambassador. “My confidence is pretty high, and I need to check my expectations a little bit.”

The Offaly man has been on the crest of a wave since he ended his three-and-a-half year victory drought in Abu Dhabi in January and while there have been a few wipeouts, such as his opening 78 in the Masters, he’s never felt as comfortable.

So what now? What could top the best start to a season he’s ever had?

“It would be nice to have a two-win season for the first time,” he said sheepishly. “I’m being greedy now! Start of year, I said I just wanted one win. It’s easy to enjoy it when you’re playing well. I want to keep going out, enjoying it.

“If you look at start of the year, when Bo [caddie Brian Martin] started caddying for me, we were chatting at the start of our relationship and said we just want to go, enjoy what we do, do it as best as we can, and try and make a few quid.

“We did alright. We won in Abu Dhabi, then you start moving up world rankings, start to force it a bit, didn’t play great for the next couple of months.

“We had a chat after Augusta about what way we want to go about the rest of the season. And that’s what we said again, the need to get back enjoying being out on the course again. I think that’s what we’ve done for the last couple of months. It’s easier to do that when you’re shooting good scores.”

There was a time when he’d have been devastated by the opening 75s he shot in the US PGA and the US Open. But he’s in such a good place he’s been able to follow each of them with three sub-par scores, finishing tied eighth at Bethpage Black and joint 28th at Pebble Beach.

“Honestly, for the first round of the US Open, I was never as comfortable or as confident going out to play a round of golf,” he said.

It is just trying to manage expectation for myself going down next week, and I think I will do alright.

In short, he’s in freewheeling mode.

“I’m almost playing like I don’t care,” Lowry said of his zen-like calm he now feels. “Obviously I do care a lot. Yes, I was disappointed after the first round of the US Open. But, you know what, it is not the end of the world.

“When you are freewheeling and playing well, you might miss a green and make a bogey but you are not too disappointed with yourself. You move on a bit quicker.

“To be honest, I think my caddie Bo has been a great help for that. He is such a chilled out character, he is such a great help to me on the course. I really feel like he has helped me over the last while and relaxed me a little bit more than I used to be.”

Bagman Martin won’t be in Lahinch as his wife is expecting a baby next Monday. But Lowry is looking forward to having pal Dara Lernihan, now the Bray Golf Club professional, caddie in Co Clare.

“I caddied for him in the Irish PGA at Roganstown,” Lowry said, grinning. “Hopefully, I do better than he did in that!”

He’ll head for Royal Portrush tomorrow to practice for The Open, then travel to Portlaoise on Saturday for Offaly’s All-Ireland Football clash with Laois having thoroughly enjoyed their 3-17 0-15 hammering of Sligo.

“It was the first time I felt what it was like to be a Dubs supporter, the match is over after 50 minutes,” he joked. “I didn’t know what to do. I can’t remember the last time I left Tullamore happy!”

The only thing that would make him happier than Sam Maguire returning to the Faithful County would be a second Irish Open win.

“I don’t even want to try to start explaining how unbelievable it would be for me to win next week so I’m going to try not to think about for the next 12 days,” he said. “I’d love to just go there and give myself a chance.”

It’s the classic chicken and egg conundrum that is attitude versus inner confidence and Lowry is not about to get philosophical, just enjoy it while the going is good.

“Even the week in Canada, it just felt so at ease out there, up near the top of the leaderboard all week,” he said. “It felt so comfortable, felt like there was no pressure on me to do anything, whether I finished second or first or 15th.

“I suppose freewheeling is a good way to put it and like I said earlier, it’s a funny game, so I just have to keep going as long as I can and ride that wave.”

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