A lot has happened to Shane Lowry since he won his national title as an amateur in 2009, yet adding an Irish Open victory as a professional is very much a serious goal for the world number 35.
So much so that, as the Offaly golfer and reigning WGC-Bridgestone Invitational champion continued his preparations for this week’s renewal at the K Club, he admitted he had, in recent years, been trying too hard at a tournament which carries so many more demands for Irish golfers than other regular season European Tour events.
Considering his world ranking has been improving annually since he turned professional following his Irish Open win at Baltray seven years ago, his results in this tournament have been less consistent. A tie for fifth at Carton House in 2013 represents his best Irish Open finish as a pro.
The following year, at Fota Island, he missed the cut and last year at Royal County Down a frustrating second round in the wind and rain saw him snap his putter before a final round 77 consigned him to a tie for 43rd.
“Talk to any Irish player, coming to the Irish Open is a bit more difficult than coming to any other tournament,” Lowry said. “I’d love to win this tournament again, or even to contend, give people something to shout about at the weekend.
“I probably have tried too hard the last couple years, but I was going through a bad run at Fota Island, after missing a few cuts, a lot of cuts by a shot as well, and last year at County Down, I think before I doubled 16 on Saturday, I was still in the tournament.
“I’m definitely not far away. I feel if I go out and play my own game (I can contend) , but the thing is, if you try too hard to do something, you won’t end up doing it.
“I’ve thought a lot about this week and I’m just going to go out and try to enjoy it as much as I can. I’m going to take time for the crowds and I’m going to sign as many autographs as I can, pose for as many pics as I can and just try to enjoy the week.”
For all Lowry has achieved since that day, seven years ago yesterday, his win at Baltray remains a high point.
“It was probably the biggest highlight of my career, I would say. To win your home tournament as an amateur, I don’t think many people will do that. It is a long time ago, but I don’t know where those seven years have gone. I feel like I’ve come a long way as a player and as a person.
“I’d just love some day to win it as a pro, as well.”
Lowry, still wrestling with the dilemma of whether to defend his WGC-Bridgestone title or chase Ryder Cup points at the clashing French Open on June 30-July 3, knows winning another Irish Open will not get any easier just because he is a top-50 player.
Aside from his compatriots Rory McIlroy, Graeme McDowell, Pádraig Harrington and Darren Clarke, this week’s field also contains Masters champion Danny Willett, the Yorkshireman with a top-10 finish in each of the last three Irish Opens.
Willett is clearly still coming to terms with his three-shot victory at Augusta National five weeks ago, and having played very little golf before his return to action at last week’s Players Championship he missed the cut at TPC Sawgrass.
“I’ve just been busy,” Willett said yesterday at the K Club. “A lot of commitments you’ve got to do on and off the golf course. No-one really prepares you for that. You can’t quite understand what guys like Rory and Jordan (Spieth) go through until you experience it yourself.
“But it’s great to be back here. Great to be back in Europe, supporting Rory’s event, Rory Foundation, Irish Open and hopefully we can have a good week here.
“You have to almost try to not really put too much expectation on doing anything particularly fantastic. I’m just really trying to get some rust out of the system. So trying to get things back to where they were, and just trying to enjoy it. The crowds are going to be fantastic. I actually enjoy the experience of being here, hopefully playing with one of the Irish lads and get some good crowd support out there and just have a great week.”
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