Shane Lowry embraces Oakmont challenge

Attack might be the best form of defence in football but when it comes to the US Open at a brutal venue like Oakmont, finding that right balance could be the key to raising that silver trophy to the sky. 

At least, that’s the belief of Offaly’s Shane Lowry, who hopes he can turn around a season that’s promised much but delivered little so far by producing a US Open performance to remember.

Tied for ninth alongside Rory McIlroy at Chambers Bay 12 months ago, Lowry has been in neutral all season, slipping from 21st in the world on December 31 to 41st today.

With one top 10 from 12 starts and zero momentum in the race for a Ryder Cup place, his year has been a story of some great rounds — the Honda Classic, the Masters and the Players stand out — but poor 72 hole totals.

The putter has been Lowry’s Achilles’ heel and while he has stuck to his trusty two-ball model, he’s hoping that Oakmont’s treacherous rough and severely canted greens will be the great equaliser.

“I think this could be the week that could kick start my season,” he said after a practice round that ended with him slashing with a wedge from deep rough behind the 18th before landing 18 feet right of the cup, a foot or two onto the green, before watching it swinging left and then trickling down to two feet.

It was a hit and hope that worked out but with so much bad luck and frustration awaiting, it remains to be seen if he can keep his head for 72 holes of torture.

Having had eight putts in two holes at Wentworth in the BMW PGA — a five-putt, followed immediately by a three-putt — Lowry arguably reached his lowest ebb in terms of mental frustration at his favourite event.

He missed the cut there, victim of his own frustration as much as any poor putting, and so tipping him to do well in a US Open would seem more than foolhardy.

Lowry begs to differ, however, even if he is running a tad low on confidence.

“What happened at Wentworth is done and gone,” he said. “Put anyone in that position after a five-putt and a three-putt it’s a tough place to be.

“I am only human and a week like this could be the week that gets me going. It’s not a week where everyone is going low and you are getting frustrated with shooting level par. You just have to battle out there and not worry about what other people are doing.”

Oakmont marble-top greens make Augusta’s look tame by comparison in that many of them are not only more sloping and quicker, the also move from front to back, making it almost impossible to leave yourself a short putt below the hole.

Staying positive is all very well but no amount of mental mumbo jumbo matters much to the Clara man, who has the FAI logo on his bag as a show of support for the Irish team at Euro 2016.

While Angel Cabrera won on five over par in 2007, Lowry knows he still has to make two or three birdies per day to have any chance on a course where playing too conservatively simply won’t work, even if he has swapped his two iron for a five-wood.

Acknowledging the fact that a world of pain awaits him, he said: “I actually like it, but it is going to be brutal. It is all about trying to keep your head on and trying to make as many pars as you can and keep going.

“It’s like last year. A lot of players were defeated before the tournament even started and that’s the way it is going to be this week.

“I am going to go out there to enjoy the challenge of it. I like it. I don’t mind it at all.” He added: “You can be in whatever frame of mind you want. If you don’t hit good shots, you’re not going to do any good.

“It’s about when you get out of position trying not to make bogey, trying not to make double (bogey), and don’t make bigger numbers.

“If you miss the green on the wrong side, you have to get yourself back into a spot where you can two putt or get up and down for a bogey. That’s just the way it was.

“Sitting back, it is hard to see where you are going to make any birdies but if you make 10 for the week, you have got a right chance of winning the tournament.” Finding the balance between playing it safe and not making enough birdies is the key this week and Lowry is still working out his strategy.

He said: “There is a fine line between too aggressive and not being aggressive enough. You need to really approach the golf course with a bit of care.

“If you are too tentative, you’re leaving yourself too long into greens and 40 footers are not much craic on these greens.

“When you get a short iron or a mid iron in your hand you really need to be inside 20 feet because you are going to be trying to two-putt from 40 feet most of the day.

“Four days around here you are going to make bogeys so you just have to try and grab on to every par you can and go to the next.

“Even if you hit a good shot and miss the putt, it’s still a par and you go to the next. Every par you put that in your pocket and go to the next tee, happy enough.

“The good thing is, there’s no bluffers will win this week. It will take a good golfer to win here.”


Keep chomping on those carrots so your eyes will be in perfect working order for that prolonged annual gaze through the keyhole as Home of the Year returns for a sixth series next week.Home of the Year offers a good excuse for a bit of good-natured interiors voyeurism

They differ from the more prevalent oranges we eat because their flesh, and often the skin, is crimson or deep red in colour.Michelle Darmody: The best time of year to buy blood oranges

The annual Members Exhibition now underway at the Lavit Gallery in Cork features 92 works from 72 artists.The exhibition runs until March 7.Under the hammer: Your guide to upcoming auctions

There’s an oriental theme at the James Adam ‘At Home’ auction in Dublin, says Des O’SullivanAuctions: Sale full of eastern promise

More From The Irish Examiner