The last thing Shane Lowry needs is to be a hostage to fortune — but while the new Open Champion insists he would retire happy with a single major win on his resumé, a steely ambition for further success lurks not far beneath the surface.
You didn’t need to mine too deep yesterday afternoon, as the 32-year-old spoke on the one hand of enjoying the moment to partake in some well-deserved celebrations following last Sunday’s impressive six-stroke victory at Royal Portrush, and then peppered the conversation with references to more major titles, Olympic medals, and a potential Ryder Cup debut under 2020 captain Pádraig Harrington at Whistling Straits.
Just as he embraced the outpouring of support for him from the sell-out crowds at the famous Antrim links last weekend, Lowry will enjoy every moment of his time as Open champion, albeit while rolling up his sleeves as soon as next week and plotting the best way to build on his new-found billing — a status he is still struggling to comprehend.
The victory has not only propelled the Clara golfer up to the world rankings, equalling his career-best position, it has also given him the springboard to finish this season with more honours on both the PGA and European tours.
“I’m leading the Race to Dubai, I’m up there in the FedEx Cup (18th), I don’t have to worry about the world rankings, it’s all good, isn’t it?” Lowry said yesterday as he faced the media for the first time since Sunday night.
“It’s literally when I start practising again next week, I’ll be solely focused on trying to finish as high up the FedEx Cup as I can, trying to get to Atlanta (for the 30-man end-of-season Tour Championship). And if I get to Atlanta, you never know what can happen.”
It is not just journalists asking Lowry what the future offers. The golfer revealed a conversation with his long-time manager Conor Ridge en route to his interview session on Leeson Street yesterday.
“I was on the way in with Conor and he showed me a picture of him, Neil Manchip, and Dara Lernihan, and it was the day we did the press conference after the Irish Open and Conor was 32 in it and he goes: ‘That was 10 years ago, how many more majors do you think you’ll have when you’re 42?’
“I said: ‘Well, one thing’s for certain, I’m going to have one anyway’. So I’m happy with this now, I’m not going to… like, if I end up in the whole of my career with only one major, I mean, obviously you’d like to have more, but one’s enough for now.
“But I am a very ambitious person so I am obviously going to want to do bigger things in the game. There are not many going to be many things that come bigger than Sunday. The way I won and how I did it and where I won, I think it was incredible. And if you were to write down all the tournaments that I am going to play over my whole career that you’d want to win, and you were to pick one, that would be very near the top of the list. It would be in the top two.
“So to be able to win that tournament, I actually feel quite lucky that I got the chance and I was able to do it when I did it.”
Those ambitions definitely include a Ryder Cup, and if last Sunday in Portrush proved anything, Lowry is more than capable of going toe-to-toe with the best in the world, having seen off nearest rival Tommy Fleetwood in a final-pairing duel, while proving too good for a chasing pack including heavyweights Brooks Koepka, Justin Rose, Rickie Fowler and Jon Rahm.
“I think the way my game is, I drive the ball alright and I chip quite well and if I hole a few putts, I can be dangerous on any given week.
“So look, I definitely wouldn’t be scared of playing anyone, I’d obviously love the opportunity to play Ryder Cup, but there’s a long way to go for that and I really need to focus on that a lot over the next 12 months and then I’ll plan my schedule accordingly and see where it leaves me.”
Lowry would certainly appear capable of handling a white-hot Ryder Cup atmosphere, just as he has risen to the occasion to win an Irish Open as an amateur and the WGC-Bridgestone Invitational in 2015, holding off a fast-finishing Tiger Woods.
“I just have always loved playing in big tournaments, I sometimes find the smaller events harder to get up for.
“But I very rarely play in small tournaments these days, every tournament I play is a Rolex Series event or a PGA Tour event or a WGC or a major. Like, how many times have I played since the Masters?
“I’ve only played about six or seven tournaments, and three of them are majors, so it’s a bit mad how the schedule has worked out. And every tournament I’m going to play is a big one now.
“Like I was saying on Sunday, the people around me probably had a little bit more belief in me than I did myself. But I go about my business the way I want to, I’m my own person and I do things the way I want to, and as long as I feel that’s the right thing, I can turn up at an event and feel like I can beat anyone.
“I’ll give you a good example — in Canada a few weeks ago I think I played good enough to win the tournament but one of the best players in the world (Rory McIlroy) turned up and when they show up, they’re unbelievably hard to beat.
“So I feel like I can beat anyone on any given day, but if they turn up with that game, they’re very hard to beat, but I’m obviously up there now, I’ve won a big tournament and if I can’t gain confidence from this...”