In-form Irish queuing up for shot at immortality

Graeme McDowell is not the only in-form Irishman teeing it up at Muirfield this week.

The world No 7 is a leading fancy for the British Open after three victories already this season but while Shane Lowry and Gareth Maybin have not matched that they both embark on their second start in golf’s oldest major full of confidence for a successful week by the banks of the Firth of Forth.

Between them they have three top-10 finishes in the last month, Lowry getting the ball rolling with a tie for fifth at the Irish Open, sharing the honour of finishing leading Irishman with Gareth Shaw on his home course at Carton House. Maybin took the baton and ran with it, finishing tied eighth at the French Open behind fellow Irishman McDowell and then tied for fifth last Sunday at the Scottish Open, shooting 64-71 over the weekend to finish three shots out of the play-off that produced a winner in Phil Mickelson.

“The last two weeks have been great,” Maybin, 32, said. “I’ve played really solid, I’ve been playing well for about two months but I’ve only really been getting the results over the last three weeks. It was awesome in a quality field [at the Scottish Open]. I mean, anytime you have Mickelson there, you’ve a strong field top to bottom and to handle myself the way I did on Sunday, I was pretty proud of that.”

The Irish pair arrived at this tournament by different routes, Lowry thanks to his consistency on the European Tour last year when he finished in the top 30 of the Race To Dubai standings, Maybin taking the more dramatic path via international qualifying. Yet they share a common background in this tournament having both made their only previous appearances at St Andrews in 2010.

Lowry’s finish in a tie for 37th on his debut would have been even more impressive but for a closing 75 and while the current good form is not be sniffed at, Lowry understands the stakes are raised considerably here at Muirfield.

“Majors, you can only get used to them by playing in them. this is only my fourth one,” Lowry, 26, said. “I’m not expecting to go out and win or anything this week, but I would like to go out and play four rounds.

“If I have half a chance going into the weekend I will be happy enough. I just need to get more experience. In four or five years down the line I could have a good chance at winning a major, right now I am just thinking to myself enjoy the week, brilliant to be here and learn as much as I can from it.”

Approaching his third major, having also played the 2010 US Open at Pebble Beach, Maybin is also still learning the ropes in the big time, and having missed the cut at St Andrews having shot 72-76, he appreciates the importance of patience.

“You don’t have to start birdie-birdie-birdie,” Maybin said.” You can ease your way into it, you’re going to make mistakes with the rough and wind being up but it’s all about limiting those mistakes and not taking a big number. You’ll always make birdies on these links courses but you have to be patient.

“It’s going to be cool. I played at St Andrews in 2010 but I really got the wrong end of the draw. It’s an Open Championship and you need a little bit of luck to win it and the draw plays a huge part in that so hopefully I’ll get that back this year.”

Lowry is similarly excited at the prospect of going into the event with fortune smiling on him.

“I can’t wait. Superb golf course, probably one of the fairest links in the world. I’m playing all right, played all right last week in Scotland (T31), I thought I should have done better. I’m happy how I am playing and I am really looking forward to it.

“If I don’t play too well, I know my short game will get me out of it. It is all about hitting fairways, getting it up around the green and trying to make par and grabbing a couple of birdies when you can. You’re going to make bogeys around here but you have to try and limit them to as little as possible.”


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