Shane Lowry returns to the major championship arena today armed with confidence rather than burdened by disappointment following last month’s US Open near-miss.
The 29-year-old had taken a four-stroke lead into the final round at Oakmont only to shoot a 76 and finish three behind Dustin Johnson in a tie for second place. The hurt must have felt crushing and Lowry admitted he had been “beating myself up for a few days” afterwards but as he finished his preparations for today’s opening round of the 145th Open at Royal Troon, everything was pointing to the Esker Hills golfer continuing on an upward curve rather than struggling with any demons.
A return to the world’s top 30 in the rankings, a €660,758 payday which has propelled him into the Ryder Cup qualification mix, yesterday’s appearance on the pre-tournament press conference list and a place in a marquee group for the first two rounds of the third major of the year all reflect Lowry’s increasing profile among the game’s elite.
They also give credence to his assertion yesterday that: “I’m not crying myself to sleep every night. I’ll survive. It’s just one of those things that happened and I’m sure I’ll be back.”
Lowry will tee off this morning at 9.03am in the company of major champions Jordan Spieth and Justin Rose, buoyed by his US Open performance over the first three rounds when his putting and iron play in particular left the field for dust.
“It’s given me quite a bit of confidence. I’ve played 54 holes of the best golf of my life, and I played okay for the next nine and then just the back nine on Sunday, I let it slip a little bit. But if you look for three-and-a-half rounds I was kind of up there and leading in one of the biggest tournaments in the world. So it can give you a bit of confidence going forward into this week.
“I know I’ll be back there. I know I’ll give myself a chance again. It’s just up to me to kind of learn from the mistakes of that Sunday afternoon and bring that into the next one.”
Lowry described those final-round errors as “subconscious stuff” that can only be learned by experience. “It’s just kind of maturing as both a player and a person when you get yourself into a situation like that. It’s nothing you can work on, I don’t think. It’s just something that you have to keep putting yourself there and you learn eventually.”
How he manages those increased expectations will be another factor in Lowry’s hoped-for progress to becoming a major champion. His tie for 36th in defence of his WGC-Bridgestone Invitational title on his first start post-Oakmont and a missed cut in the Scottish Open at Castle Stuart last week were a result, he felt, of expecting too much of himself and trying too hard.
“Trying to get up to the top of the leaderboard too quickly and just not staying as patient as I have been for a good bit of the year. Because if you look at my year, it hasn’t been going great up until Oakmont, but I’ve been staying very patient and just trying to go along and playing good golf. I think that’s just what I need to do.
“Obviously, it’s great to be here and doing a press conference on a Wednesday. And I have a really good group tomorrow, and I’m looking forward to that. I can’t wait. That’s where I wanted to be.
“I’ve been in plenty of shitty groups over the years,” Lowry continued amidst laughter before realising he may have spoken out of turn, “With all due respect to the golfers, I shouldn’t say that, should I? But you know what I mean. I’ve been like last off and first off. I don’t mean by the players I was playing with but I meant the times more so.
“So, yeah, it’s where you want to be in the world of golf, playing with the best players in the world and trying to compete against those.”
That is where Lowry feels he belongs and can thrive, on the biggest stages golf has to offer.
“I genuinely believe that I’m, without sounding too cocky, I like the big-time play. I like the big tournaments. I love playing in front of the big crowds. I love playing late on Saturdays and Sundays. I think it’s kind of where you want to be.
Obviously, I had a good win last year and I’ve been up there in a few majors here and there. I just love it... I love competing at the highest level. There’s no greater buzz in the world. It’s what I go out and play golf for.
“So, yeah, I just hope I’m there on Saturday afternoon with a chance with 36 holes to go and we’ll see after that.”
© Irish Examiner Ltd. All rights reserved