Shane Lowry knows he has the game to win majors and play Ryder Cup but he also knows that Europe and not the US might be the perfect launchpad as he bids to make Pádraig Harrington’s team for Whistling Straits next year.
In fact, the popular Offaly man is so determined to be on that plane to Wisconsin, he’s seriously considering not taking up his PGA Tour card next season.
The world number 41 lost his full PGA Tour credentials last year and while he’s poised to win back his US card after his tie for eighth in the US PGA catapulted him into the top 125 in the FedExCup standings, he believes concentrating on Europe may give him a better chance of making Harrington’s team.
“I think I need to manage my schedule better,” said Lowry, who played poorly in the US in 2018 finished 19th in the European Points List and 21st in the Ryder Cup World Points List to miss out on the matches in Paris.
He also lost his PGA Tour card and while he’s now 113th in the FedExCup standings and can win back his card this summer by remaining inside the top 125 after the Wyndham Championship, he feels for the world schedule a European Tour player might suit him better.
“If I get my PGA Tour card back, which I have a good chance of doing, I need to sit down and have a long hard think about what I am going to do,” Lowry said at Baltray yesterday where he was reflecting on the 10th anniversary of his breakthrough win, just five weeks before he travels to Lahinch to bid for a second Dubai Duty Free Irish Open title.
“I am not sure that playing both tours is the way forward for me. I don’t think I play enough events on either tour and I end up in no man’s land playing 15 events in America and another 10 or 15 events in Europe.
“I don’t think that works well for me. The schedule is the big thing. If I get my schedule right, which I think I have done this year, and set my stall out at the start of the year with the schedule I have to play and stick to that, I can go from there.
“I think my focus will have to switch from one to another and I will have to strongly think about not taking my PGA Tour card. That would be in my thoughts.”
Lowry was gutted not to make Thomas Bjorn’s team last year, having gone into 2017 on the back of a runner-up finish in the 2016 US Open at Oakmont.
Rather than boosting his confidence, he lost form, and it took his victory in HSBC Abu Dhabi Championship in his first event this year to reignite his fire.
The key is that as a top-50 in the world player, he qualifies for all the majors and World Golf Championships as well as The Players at Sawgrass, making it easier to rack up significant Ryder Cup qualifying points.
And with Harrington reducing the number of wildcards from four to three for the 2020 Ryder Cup at Whistling Straits, Lowry believes he would have a better chance of winning one of five spots via the European Points List than the four available from the World Points race if he plays more in Europe.
I want to play Ryder Cups and I want to contend in Majors, so if you play the European Tour from the top 50 in the world, I think you can play a very good schedule for the whole year. It’s something to think about going forward.
The Ryder Cup race does not begin until the $7 million (€6.25m) BMW PGA at Wentworth on September 19 and Lowry, who will be 33 for the 2020 Ryder Cup, is determined to play in Wisconsin.
“You’d probably need to be top 30 in the world to make the European team,” he said. “I sat down at Christmas and decided that’s what I want to do for the next two years and that’s still my main goal.
“I want to cement myself as much in the top 50 as I can so I am still in all the big tournaments from September onwards to try and make the team.
“The three wildcards suits me better (than four), and if there were no wildcards, it would be better for me. Rookies rarely get a pick so I’d have a better chance of qualifying automatically.
“I think the European list is the easier one to make the team off. With the World Points List, you are going up against guys like Rory and Justin Rose, to try and make the team, so that might mean me playing a bit more in Europe next year.
“There are tournaments the like last week’s Made in Denmark — €3 million is a decent purse. It’s not necessarily the best field in the world, and it’s good money.”
As for taking in the world’s best, he knows he’s not in the same league as Rory McIlroy or Dustin Johnson or Brooks Koepka just yet, but he fears no one.
“I don’t fear any of the top players in the world, but I do respect they are the best, and when I play practice rounds with Rory and Dustin joins you, you do see how good they are,” he said.
“But if I get head to head with them, I won’t be afraid of them, and that’s how I feel about it.”
Lowry will get another chance to butt heads with the game’s best in the US Open.
But 10 years on from his breakthrough win at Baltray, he admits that while he has to pinch himself occasionally to make sure it’s not all a dream, he can’t afford to feel starstruck if he’s to compete for the majors he believes he’s capable of winning.
“I do pinch myself the odd time,” he admitted. “When you are playing and hanging out with the top players in the world, it is surreal sometimes.
"But you can’t really do it too much, or you will get in awe of everyone, and you won’t play good golf.
“I do appreciate where I am and what I have done the last 10 years. But no matter what you do, you always want more.
"I think I have had a pretty decent career so far and hopefully, the next 10 years are as good, if not better.”