Devastated is too strong a word but Shane Lowry confessed that he’ll be “very disappointed” if he fails to make Darren Clarke’s Ryder Cup team this year.
While the high expectations of others are always dangerous, Lowry knows himself well and having elevated himself to the top table in golf with his World Golf Championships Bridgestone Invitational victory last year, he’s only hungry for more success.
Focusing on “the process” rather than the result is one of those psychobabble terms players use to describe how they take pressure off themselves on the golf course.
Lowry runs a mile from the kind of talk but he knows that as the current world No 23, he’s expected to be on the plane to Hazeltine in Minnesota in September.
“I know,” said the sixth highest ranked European in the world with a wry smile. “I know people expect me to make the team and I think I will be very disappointed myself if I am not on the team this year. That’s obvious. It’s the same for any player who is up there in the world rankings. You know you have a chance to make it.”
Lowry hasn’t always dealt well with high expectations and struggled to get into the right frame of mind for last year’s Open Championship at St Andrews, having gone there with his hopes (and those of half of Ireland) sky high following his Top 10 finish in the US Open.
But this is a new Lowry. He’s comfortable in his skin, as he showed when egging on the crowd with his antics on the 16th green in Phoenix last month.
“People have expectations and you learn over the years to deal with them,” he said as he prepared to make his debut in the Honda Classic alongside Brian Harman and 2014 winner Russell Henley.
“Five years ago, if I was in the same position, it would have been different and I would have been more anxious to get off to a good start this year. I would have been doing my schedule around trying to make the team.
“For me, I am just doing my schedule this year by looking at what tournaments I want to play in and where can I do well. If I do that and do other things well, like preparing properly and doing things right, I will give myself the best chance to make the team.”
Having secured his PGA Tour card last year, Lowry is playing some venues for the first time and as he is not ranked high enough in the PGA Tour’s complex pecking order for Pro-Am participation, he dodges between rain storms to play 18 holes on the Champion Course at PGA National on Tuesday.
Sodden and defenceless due to the lack of wind, the course presents no real challenge to Lowry late in the afternoon as he peppers the pin through the Bear Trap holes — the 15th, 16th, and 17th.
“It’s just a tough golf course,” he said of PGA National, which hosted the US PGA in 1987. “It’s there in front of you, you just have to play well. It is a proper tough golf course.
“There are always four or five holes every week where you say, I will take four pars and I will be happy with that. On this course, I think there are a couple more than that like the sixth and the Bear Trap holes. There are probably eight holes where you would take pars.
“If you play the sixth in par, the 15th in par and 17th in par, you are gaining shots on the field. Anyway, I like tough courses. I do alright on them.”
Having played well in the EurAsia Cup in January and then finished 13th in the Farmers Insurance Open, sixth in the Waste Management Phoenix Open and 41st in the AT&T Pebble Beach Pro-Am, Lowry is happy with his start to 2016 but looking for two good weeks in Florida with next week’s WGC Cadillac Championship at Trump Doral a venue he likes.
“The Eurasia Cup was great and Darren was very good for us,” Lowry said. “I really enjoyed it. One thing he did great, he made the caddies very involved. There was a big team in there. It was great fun.
“The one thing Darren will do in the Ryder Cup is look after the players. And he was great the way he did his pairings. I loved playing with Sully [Andy Sullivan].
“I was very happy with my the first three weeks over here apart from struggling a bit with the greens in Pebble Beach, losing a bit of confidence on the first day at Monterey where the greens weren’t great.
“I went out for the first week at Torrey Pines having not played for six or eight weeks and with no expectations and I reversed into a very good finish by playing well in that bad weather.
“Then the following week in Phoenix, I went out and I was leading after the first round and I don’t think I’ve ever been leading after round one. So that’s another thing to tick off the list of firsts.
“I loved Phoenix. The 16th was very intimidating the first couple of days but this year for me, I am playing a lot of tournaments I’ve never played before, like this week, so it’s about getting to know them.
“The plan is to just go out and contend and try to get a win or close to a win, which I felt was very close in Phoenix.
“I just played my back nine on Saturday and my front nine on Sunday really poorly. But the other 54 holes I played well enough to win. So it is about cleaning that up a little bit.” The Masters is six weeks away but while Lowry is not yet thinking about Augusta National, he’s confident he will have no issues to deal with there, despite missing the cut on his debut last year.
“I have all my flights and accommodation planned but I am not thinking about the Masters yet, no. I felt like I played really poorly there last year and drove the ball really badly.
“Since then I have driven the ball really well so if I can do that this year, I will be okay.”
© Irish Examiner Ltd. All rights reserved