NOBODY was as surprised as Shane Lowry when he shot 62 in the second round of the 2009 3 Irish Open on the way to a sensational victory at Baltray.
And the winner at Killarney this year may well have to include a similarly low score in at least one round to have a chance of claiming the top prize of €500,000.
The Killarney layout is bereft of rough but is otherwise in terrific condition and, with a favourable forecast, everything points to low scoring. Even the magical 59, a figure never achieved in the history of the European Tour, has been mentioned. Lowry is noted for going low so could he be the man to make history here this week?
“That’s a big call, do I see myself shooting 59? I don’t think so. I don’t think there’s anything like that out there. There might be a 62 or 63 if somebody plays unbelievable but that’s the same as it is every week. These players are so good, if they get on their game, they can make nine or ten birdies in a round.
“The scoring will be quite low. I would expect the winner to be around 20 under.”
Even 14 months on, few need reminding of the remarkable events at Baltray in May 2009, how an unrated amateur shot the lights out in dreadful conditions and eventually prevailed after a three hole play-off against the English professional Robert Rock.
“What happened in Baltray was life changing,” he says. “The GUI and ‘3’ gave me the opportunity to play and it was something I’ll remember for the rest of my life. Hopefully, I can push on and get a few more wins and see how far I can go in this game.”
All the indications in that latter regard are favourable. He is 46th in the Race to Dubai order of merit (€367,590) and 82nd in the world rankings.
He continued: “It all took time to sink in after Baltray, one week I was teeing it up as an amateur, the next I was a Tour professional and I didn’t know what to expect. While I knew I wanted to be a professional golfer, I didn’t expect it to happen so quickly. I’m pleased at how things have gone and especially over the last few weeks.
“I’ve worked really hard on my game over the last 12 months and it’s hard when you’re not getting the results. There was a Friday evening in France when I was playing so well and was up near the top of the leaderboard. But I went five over for the last five and missed the cut by one. I said to myself, ‘you’re not letting that happen again’. The next week I had a top ten at Loch Lomond and did okay at the Open. I’ve moved over 100 spots in the world rankings, I’ve made over a half million euros so I have to be pleased.”
Like almost everyone else in the field — with the notable exception of Darren Clarke — Lowry doesn’t know the Killeen layout very well. He first saw it on a preliminary visit on Friday and played another 18 holes yesterday.
The levels of expectations will also be considerably greater and while he will try to treat it like any other week, he accepts there will be more pressure on him as defending champion.
“That will come from myself rather than anyone else,” he claimed. “You put more pressure on yourself to do better in your home tournament. When you’re at any other tournament, no one takes any notice of you. But this week is different because I’m defending and it’s my home tournament. But I’m trying not to feel like that. I’m treating it as a normal week. I have a lot of friends here and we’ll just chill out and as soon as I get on the first tee on Thursday, it’s just me and the golf course. If I can improve my iron play by a small percentage, you never know what might happen on Sunday.”
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