Tuesday 25 October 2016

Lowry aiming to apply extra pressure on McIlroy in Turkish leg of Race to Dubai

Brian Keogh

Published 29/10/2015 | 02:30

Rory McIlroy of Northern Ireland with Caddie J.P. Fitzgerald
Rory McIlroy of Northern Ireland with Caddie J.P. Fitzgerald

Shane Lowry has set his sights on Rory McIlroy's Race to Dubai crown and a place in next year's Ryder Cup team.

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The Clara man tees it up in the Turkish Airlines Open alongside Race to Dubai leader McIlroy and second-ranked Danny Willett believing he has a chance to sit down for his Christmas dinner with one foot in Darren Clarke's European team.

Now 17th in the world, the Offaly star will play the four Final Series events before finishing off what's already his best ever season at the Nedbank Golf Challenge in South Africa.

And while McIlroy is also trying to finish an injury-hit season with at least one win from his last three starts, Lowry wants to give himself a chance to deny his former Irish amateur team mate a third Race to Dubai crown in four years by sneaking another win at the Montgomerie Maxx Royal this week.

Looking at the end of the season as a golden opportunity to take a huge step forward with his career, Lowry said: "If you look at the past few Ryder Cup campaigns, anyone who has won one of these [Final Series] tournaments has made the team.

"This is the first time I have had a chance to do well in the Race to Dubai. I was tenth last year but I have a real chance of finishing up there this year. A couple of good weeks and I could get into the top 10 in the world. I want to in the top three or four in the Race to Dubai going into the final event in Dubai. I want to go out there in the first round that week with a chance of winning the overall Race to Dubai."

McIlroy also knows that he faces a tough competitor in his former Irish amateur team-mate, who is just 550,000 points behind him with 1.3million points on offer for the winner in Turkey this week alone.

"It's been great to see," he said of Lowry's emergence as a star since winning the WGC-Bridgestone Invitational in August. "I think we've all known that Shane's had the talent to do something like that. I watched the final nine holes of Akron when I was at Whistling Straits preparing, and it was quite a display of sort of guts down the stretch with the putt he held on 10 and the shots he hit coming down the stretch.

"It's great to see him sort of push on from there. It's always good to see when the guys from home do well."

Having missed The Open because he ruptured ankle ligaments playing football with pals, McIlroy arrives in Turkey determined to finish the season with a fourth win.

"I've hit the ball well enough to contend in tournaments and to win tournaments, but my putting's sort of held me back," McIlroy said of his five-event winless streak since returning from his ankle injury. "I feel like there's a lot's happened and a lot of time has gone by since that last win of mine back in May. I want to try and get back into contention and no better place than this week.

"I'd obviously like to win the Race to Dubai and at least one of these last three events that I'm playing.

"That would make me feel better about the end of the year, from when I injured my ankle at the start of July.

"If I was to go from then to the end of the season without another win, especially with how I was playing up until that point, it would be very disappointing. So I've got three opportunities coming up to try and get a win or two on the board and end this year on a positive and go into next year with a bit of momentum."

The Holywood star was 71st for putting in his last start in the Frys.com Open in California and claimed that his putting problems were more mental than technical.

"I felt like every time I missed the putt, there was a question that followed it: Did I pull it? Did I misread it, did I whatever," McIlroy said. "So it's more trying to free myself up, get out of my own way a little bit."

Paul McGinley recently said that McIlroy would always be streaky on the greens and could never hope to be as good a putter as Jordan Spieth

"I definitely hole out much better than I used to do," McIlroy claimed. "And when I get my eye in, I'm really good. I do hole a lot of putts. But yeah, I don't get my eye in as much as I'd like to. So I'll always be somewhat of a streaky putter."

Still, he wants to be more consistent on the green and rounding off his injury hit year with a win and a successful defence of the Race to Dubai is clearly his goal.

McIlroy does not want to play more than two events in a row to take pressure off his body and his left ankle. But when to comes to next year's schedule, he kicked for touch when asked if he'd play four in a row by defending the Wells Fargo Championship at Quail Hollow and then play The Players, the Irish Open and the BMW PGA at Wentworth in successive weeks.

"There's 'potentially' four in a row," McIlroy said, with his emphasis of the word "potentially" throwing doubt on his participation in the European Tour's flagship event at Wentworth.

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