Sport Golf

Saturday 30 August 2014

Lowry skips school in bid to join top 50

Liam Kelly

Published 16/10/2012 | 05:00

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Shane Lowry plays a shot from a bunker on his way to victory in the Portugal Masters

SHANE Lowry's abrupt switch in travel plans after his stunning success in the Portugal Masters at Vilamoura is a personal vote of confidence in his form and talent.

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The 25-year-old Offaly man turns his attention to the land of Eastern promise instead of going into the West chasing a PGA Tour card via Qualifying School.

Lowry, speaking before he went to Faro airport for a flight home yesterday, is now 74th in the world rankings and has targeted a place inside the elite top 50.

Prior to the Portugal Masters, he had planned a trip to America on Friday in a bid to gain playing rights for the USA.

That all changed within a couple of hours after his first win as a professional, and a second European Tour victory after his triumph as an amateur in the 2009 Irish Open.

"I've decided not to go to Tour School now. I'm 74th in the world and I've got to back myself to do well and try to get into the top 50 before the end of the year," said Lowry.

"I've now got four huge tournaments in five weeks, with lots of world ranking points. If you get into the top 50 you can pretty much play where you want, so that's obviously the main goal.

"Going to Q-school was always going to be a bit of a gamble, but I had my card for the European Tour safe before Portugal, but now I'm off to China on Sunday."

Remarkable

Lowry's victory was remarkable. He started the final round four shots behind overnight leader Berndt Wiesberger, and shot 66 to win by a shot from England's Ross Fisher as Wiesberger's challenge faltered.

By winning the €375,00 first prize, the Clara native broke the €2m barrier in earnings, and became the first Republic of Ireland player to win on the European Tour since his own 2009 Irish Open win three years and 150 days previously.

Heady stuff indeed, and a great feeling -- different in some respects to 2009 at Baltray, but eminently satisfying.

"It's sinking in slowly but surely. Waking up this morning was a great feeling," he said.

"It's hard to describe how you feel a day after that, but I'll remember this one forever.

"It feels better than 2009 because I needed to go out there and shoot a score. I went into the back nine a few behind. I needed to do something special and I did.

"Knowing that I can do that when I'm under the gun gives me more confidence going into bigger tournaments now. I reckon it will set me up for the future.

"It's also a monkey off my back. Although I won as an amateur, '09 was totally unexpected, but people have been expecting me to do well over the last few years.

"To be honest I don't feel myself I've fulfilled my potential, I feel like I'm a better player than my results have shown.

"I'm progressing every year and that's all I can ask for. To get that win yesterday is a monkey off my back and I feel like hopefully the floodgates will start to open now," added Lowry.

His next tournament will be the $7m BMW Masters in Shanghai from October 25-28, followed by the $7m WGC- HSBC Champions at Mission Hills (November 1-4), and then the $6m Singapore Open (November 8-11), culminating with the $8m DP World Tour Championship in Dubai (November 22-25).

That schedule offers huge opportunities, and central to making a good start in Shanghai will be Lowry's mental attitude after his maiden win as a professional.

In that respect, his coach Neil Manchip, the GUI national coach, has no worries.

"There's often a reaction when players win a tournament. We've spoken about this and about adopting the attitude that when you do win it's the middle of a process, not the end. It's not a life changer, it's not going to change anything but when it does happen, it's great," said Manchip.

"Shane will be fine. He just loves playing golf. He's grateful for the opportunity and the environment he finds himself in and just loves what he's doing and he has a great aptitude for the game."

Lowry has now played 99 tournaments since turning pro after his Irish Open win. He always had talent, and now he's putting the experience gained on Tour to good use.

"I've learned so much and I now have a better understanding of how to play the game. My golfing brain is much better than it used to be so I think that's the main thing that's changed," said Lowry.

GAA fan Lowry didn't let the serious business of chasing a first professional win distract him from keeping in touch with the progress of Clara in the Offaly county final against Rhode.

"On the 15th tee my dad told me they were five points down, with five minutes to go. My caddie said to me 'Shane, you're the last Clara man standing this weekend' so at least we got something out of the day," said Lowry.

Irish Independent

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