As someone who appreciates a “true test of golf,” Shane Lowry isn’t one to complain often. But the Offaly man has some criticism of one major aspect of the US Open test at Torrey Pines.
“I think the rough is actually too thick,” Lowry said this week as he prepares for his ninth US Open. “I think the rough being so thick actually takes a little bit of the skill level out of it. When it's off a tight lie, I think that's when there's more skill involved. There's a lot of times where you get around the greens and missing the green and it's a bit of a hit-and-hope and a bit of luck involved.”
The USGA, of course, has long been known for setting up championship courses with punishing rough. The kikuyu rough at Torrey Pines is particularly dense, especially compared to what it’s usually like in January when the PGA Tour stops here annually. For someone who wields a short game like Lowry, that takes away the kind of advantage which enabled him to finish tied for fourth at the PGA Championship last month at Kiawah.
It will require deft management this week to contend for a US Open title.
“It's all about leaving yourself in the right spots and taking the big numbers off the card,” Lowry said. “Let your mistakes be bogeys and try and make your birdies when you get your chances.”
In general, the more difficult the challenge the more suitable it is for Lowry, who will finally get to defend his Open Championship title after two years next month. He’s not deterred by the kind of challenge the USGA presents, having tied second in 2016 at Oakmont.
“A US Open for me is like a true test of golf, so it's pretty much everything — every part of your game, every part of your mentality will be required to do well in this game,” he said.
Lowry has played Torrey Pines four times in the Farmers Insurance Open, his best finish a seventh in his debut in 2015.
“I have more expectations of myself than anyone else would have of me,” he said. “I sometimes go into tournaments with a bit too much expectation. There is something about this week that I feel like my form's been good. I'm playing quite well. Golf will give you nothing, and you need to go out there and work for everything you get. I need to go out there and allow myself to play the best golf I can, and I hope that's good enough come Sunday.”
Despite his concerns about the rough, Lowry said if he could have one aspect of his game shine this week it would be handling Torrey’s tricky poa annua greens.
“Tournaments are won on the greens,” he said. “Give me a really good putting week, and I'll be hopefully there or thereabouts.”