Shane Lowry hasn’t won a golf tournament since clinching The Open Championship in such emphatic style at Royal Portrush two summers ago but the Offaly man knows that he has three times the chance to secure success in Tokyo this week.
Lowry and Rory McIlroy will form the Irish challenge in the men’s tournament at the Kasumigaseki Country Club when the event tees off tomorrow and a silver or bronze medal would mean an awful lot more than a second of third-place on a usual week on tour.
“The golf course is pretty good,” he said yesterday.
“It’s an excellent golf course, in excellent condition. It’s kind of got a lot of different holes and it’s not going to suit any one player. So, yeah, the scoring is probably going to be quite low.
“Obviously this week we’ve got three prizes up for grabs. It’s different to any other week where you would normally, no matter how good, bad or indifferent you’re doing, have something to play for.”
Lowry had intended to stay in the Olympic Village and soak up as much of the atmosphere as possible but his coach Neil Manchip explained last November that the distance to the course and Tokyo traffic made that unworkable.
The 34-year old has still attempted to soak up as much of the Olympic experience as possible, dropping into the Village to mingle with some of the other Team Ireland athletes, including rugby’s Greg O’Shea, and take in more sights and sounds besides.
“It was pretty cool to go and see the Olympic village and it’s quite disappointing that we can’t stay there. I think I’d enjoy staying there, I really enjoyed the atmosphere of being around the other athletes, especially all the Irish people.
“I got to meet quite a few of them and you see how much the Olympics means to other people, and what it means to the other athletes.
“Right now that I’m here, it means a lot to me and it would mean a lot to me to bring a medal back to Ireland. That’s the main reason I’m here. Yes, I’m here to enjoy myself, but I’m here to work and I’m here to bring back a medal, and that’s the way I’ve looked at this week, that’s the way I’ve looked at it over the last few weeks and hopefully I can do that.”
Lowry will tee off tomorrow in the same grouping as the USA’s Patrick Reed and Tommy Fleetwood of Team GB (as opposed to England, given this is the Olympic Games) while McIlroy is in good company as well.
The Holywood man, who has been open about his lack of patriotism and opted against competing in Rio in 2016, will be in the group ahead of him. His playing partners for the first two days will be reigning Open champ Collin Morikawa and Korea’s Sungjae Im.
The stakes here are particularly high for Im and countryman Si Woo Kim who both skipped the Open at Royal St George’s to compete here in the knowledge that they will have to undergo two years of military service if they fail to win a medal.
“There will be a huge emphasis this week on trying to get off to a good start and putting yourself in the mix when it comes down to it and the end of the week on Sunday,” said Lowry.
“Like I said, because of what the Olympics means to me and to everybody in Ireland, and to Team Ireland, I’d love to produce a medal for them. Fingers crossed we can have a good week here and I can put myself in the mix and bring home a medal.”