Way back in 2009, when Shane Lowry won his maiden event on the European Tour as an amateur, the manner of his victory raised more than a few eyebrows among professional golf’s aristocracy.
His victory meant there was another gifted Irishman to contend with, such was the profile and dominance of Harrington, McDowell, Clarke and budding superstar Rory McIlroy at the time.
But Lowry’s maiden victory was a double-edged sword. It gave him time to adjust to the life and schedule of a professional, but it also plucked him away from the relative obscurity of the amateur game into a world where the media now wanted to forensically analyse every decision and performance.
In those early years, Lowry would have discovered just how tough the professional game actually is, in terms of the depth of the competition and the fact you are away from home and alone for long periods of time.
In those circumstances, it is easy to second-guess your schedule or indeed your form while racking up incredible expenses with no guarantees of any payback. It is daunting. But it also sharpens the mind and for those capable and determined to succeed, coming through those experiences provides the necessary tools (mental toughness, resolve, confidence) to push on and realise their full potential in the game.
From the beginning, I always believed Shane Lowry had the talent to play at the very top table, something which he is now beginning to demonstrate more, starting with his win in last year’s WGC–Bridgestone event in Ohio and more recently at this year’s TPC in Sawgrass and the US Open at Oakmont.
While his knockers might refer to his collapses in the third round of the TPC and the fourth round of the US Open, I prefer to believe Lowry will be buoyed by the knowledge he put himself into a winning position.
Now that he has also experienced playing in the last group in the final round of a major, he will have a better understanding of what he needs to do next time round to get over that winning line.
The most essential ingredient in any athlete’s success is confidence — of mind and of body. Confidence you are making the right decisions, for the right reasons and that those decisions will have a profound impact on achieving the goals that you have set out for yourself.
In recent weeks, Shane has made a number of big decisions, the first of which was his decision to defend his title in this week’s WGC–Bridgestone event rather than play in the French Open with its “double” Ryder Cup points.
With no Ryder Cup points or Race to Dubai points on offer in Ohio, this was always going to be one of the more contentious decisions of the year for the European players playing on the PGA Tour. So such an honourable and gutsy decision should be praised. We should also recognise Lowry’s growing confidence in himself he can determine his own Ryder Cup fate.
However, Lowry’s decision to sacrifice Ryder Cup points has impacted his other big decision, to officially pull himself out of the Olympics. While not surprising, it suggests to me Shane fully understood the likely outcry his decision would provoke, so it is nice to see he has remained steadfastly focused on prioritising his own goals for this year.
Personally, given that nature of the man, I have no doubt he would have loved to represent Ireland in the Olympics. Who wouldn’t? But not at any cost.
While the Zika virus again takes the blame, my view is Shane has simply taken a hard look at his schedule in the months leading up to the Ryder Cup – two major championships and a four-tournament FedEx series – and asked himself what’s the lowest hanging fruit on my priority list?
It’s the Olympics.
Believe it or not, despite the farcical flood of male defections from the Olympics, the Olympics are important to professional golfers, but it must be remembered their minds have been trained to think as individuals and not as a collective. Simply focusing on the “greedy” attitude of pro golfers doesn’t take into account we should be just as critical of those people running this game who never prioritised or synchronised a place for the Olympic men’s competition on the players’ calendars.
Rather than embrace this Olympic opportunity, they have instead caused a scheduling nightmare that has now afforded embarrassed professionals the opportunity to use the Zika virus as an excuse.
Here's a little extra sport: BallTalk TV look ahead to the Euro 2016 quarter-finals.
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