Shane Lowry might be focussed on the Turkish Airlines Open and the Race to Dubai but he admits that it would be “an incredible honour” to carry to Irish flag at next year’s Olympic Games and a dream to win gold.
While qualifying for Japan does not officially end until 22 June next year, Lowry and Rory McIlroy already look to have their spots in the 60-man field locked up for the trip to Kasumigaseki Country Club from July 30 to August 2.
The event begins just 11 days after the final major of the season — The Open in Sandwich — and reigning Open champion Lowry sheepishly admits he already has his flights booked so he’s in Tokyo for the opening ceremony.
“I am not 100% on the team,” Lowry said before a huge grin broke across his bearded features. “But I have my flights booked for the Wednesday after The Open. If I am not there I will cancel them.”
The Irish duo will be two of the highest-profile athletes in the Irish Olympic team and two clear candidates for what would only be only Ireland’s tenth Olympic gold medal.
The honour of carrying the tricolour into the Olympic stadium for the opening ceremony has been awarded in the past to such names as Ronnie Delany (1960), Sonia O’Sullivan (2000), and Katie Taylor (2012) but were he to be asked to be the standard-bearer, Lowry admits he would not hesitate.
“I wouldn’t say no,” said Lowry.
Everybody knows how patriotic and Irish I am but, look, there is obviously going to be other athletes there who will be putting their name forward I am sure.
"Wouldn’t it be an incredible honour for myself and my family to do something like that? So, yes.”
Lowry’s coach Neil Manchip will be the team leader for the men’s golf team in Japan and while staying in the Olympic village will be too logistically difficult, Lowry is keen to compete with McIlroy for gold.
“We don't win that many gold medals in Ireland,” he said. “That would be a huge moment if I could do that, but obviously, it will be quite difficult.
“I obviously won't be going in as the favourite to win it. But maybe my teammate might be. We have obviously got a good team and could go over there and hopefully do something special between the two of us.”
He’s a huge admirer of McIlroy and all he’s achieved, especially this year.
“I’ve been saying it all along,” Lowry said. "I know he hasn't done it in the majors and that's been well publicised over the last couple of weeks, but when he has his A-game, there is nobody better than him.”
Winning the Race to Dubai remains a goal and while it would be easy to rest on his laurels after his Open win, a top-two finish this week could see him overtake Austria’s Bernd Wiesberger at the top of the rankings.
“You still want to put yourself under pressure, and I still want to get the best out of myself every day I go out,” said Lowry, who tees it up tomorrow with Wiesberger and Olympic champion Justin Rose, who is going for a hat trick of Turkish Airlines Open wins at the Montgomerie Maxx Royal track in Belek.
“When it is all over in three weeks time, I will sit back and be happy enough with what I have no matter what happens the next couple of weeks.
“It's just about getting my mind right this next 24 hours to let myself go out this week and just play my best golf and do the same when it comes to Dubai.”
Ryder Cup skipper Harrington will tee it up with France’s Victor Perez and Austria’s Matthias Schwab, who lie second and seventh respectively in European Points list.
Unlike Lowry, Wiesberger plans to play in next week’s Nedbank Golf Challenge and having fallen outside the top 300 in the world last year following a long layoff forced by wrist injury, he’s pinching himself to be in with a chance of winning the Race to Dubai.
"To be honest it was not on my list, to be standing No. 1 on The Race to Dubai before the last three events,” he said. “But I'm kind of the guy that goes week by week and day by day and just try to get the most out of myself every day out on the golf course, and you know, at the end of the year, you all add it up.”