SHANE LOWRY is hoping to join a very exclusive club and boost his chances of finishing the Race to Dubai on a high when he makes his debut in the 100th edition of the Ladbrokes.com sponsored Irish PGA at Seapoint today.
The 23-year-old Clara native created history when he shocked the golfing world by capturing last season’s 3 Irish Open as an amateur on his European Tour debut at neighbouring Baltray.
And after revealing he lost his hunger for the game after a gruelling summer schedule, the world No 102 is bidding to regain his competitive edge in Co Louth and join Irish legends Padraig Harrington, Harry Bradshaw and Fred Daly by becoming just the fourth player to complete the Irish Open-Irish PGA double.
Confessing to being jaded after playing 25 events already this season, Lowry said: “Being the 100th Irish PGA, it would be great to win here. It could be the confidence boost I need.
“I kind of lost the hunger for the game recently because I have almost played too much this year but this week will be good to keep the game sharp before the Dunhill Links in two weeks.”
The tournament sponsors have put up a €30,000 prize fund – a far cry from the €100,000 plus that made it the richest domestic championship in Europe when packaging giants Smurfit footed the bill. The winner will take home just €3,500 – €500 less than Harrington won took home for his sixth win at The European Club 12 months ago.
But the bookmakers have also provided a list of odds for the week with 39-year-old Meath man Damien McGrane rated the 4-1 favourite ahead of Lowry (7/1) to claim his first domestic crown, five years after losing to Harrington in a three-way play-off at Palmerstown House.
Like Lowry, McGrane is hoping to clinch a win that could give him the confidence to win for the second time on tour and make a move as the European Tour’s Race to Dubai enters the home straight. “You want to win and say I won this tournament in my time and that’s why I’m here,” McGrane said. “I’d like to turn around some day and say, yes, I did win the Irish PGA back in the day. I have an opportunity to do that this week.”
Ranked 47th in the Race to Dubai, where the top 60 make the climaxing €5.6 Dubai World Championship, McGrane added: “A win could also be a big confidence-booster. Darren Clarke won JP McManus Invitational Pro Am this year and it gave him confidence and he managed to push on and play well on tour. Golf is a mental game and we are all looking for that little bit of self belief to propel us forward and whoever wins this week will be a very confident player next week. There is more than just money involved.”
Waterville’s David Higgins, who leads the domestic money list from which the top 30 will make the climaxing Lexus Race to Mount Juliet Tournament on October 16, is third favourite ahead of 2006 champion David Mortimer.
But they will all have a weather eye open for course co-designer Des Smyth, who is bidding for his seventh Irish PGA title at the age of 57.
Modest about his chances despite his recent European Senior Tour win at Woburn, Smyth said: “I wouldn’t say I fancy my chances because there are a lot of young guys who are on the way up and I am on the way down.”
The 16-1 chance added with a mischievous grin: “But I am a trier.”
Selected tee times
First tee: 9:30 L Walker (Dundalk), M Staunton (Foreireland.com), N Manchip (GUI National Academy);
10th tee: 9am: J Bolger (Kilkenny), P Walton (Foreireland.com), C Mallon (Narin & Portnoo);
9:10 J Kelly (St Margarets), S Lowry (Esker Hills), E Brady (Clontarf);
9:30 D McWilliams (Unatt.), D Mortimer (Foreireland.com), D McGrane (Unatt.)
2pm: D Higgins (Waterville), D Smyth (Unatt.), D Mooney (Unatt.)
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