Thursday 29 September 2016

Rio spotlight falls on Shane Lowry as Graeme McDowell opts out of Games

Published 24/06/2016 | 02:30

Graeme McDowell’s decision to pull out of the Rio Olympics leaves the door open for Padraig Harrington Picture: John Dickson / SPORTSFILE
Graeme McDowell’s decision to pull out of the Rio Olympics leaves the door open for Padraig Harrington Picture: John Dickson / SPORTSFILE

Olympic golf team manager Paul McGinley now awaits a decision from Shane Lowry before finalising the Irish men's representation for the Games in Rio.

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Pádraig Harrington, next in line by virtue of his world ranking, spoke with McGinley from Japan yesterday, and told him he is ready, willing, and able to compete.

McGinley has also spoken with US-based Web.Com player Seamus Power from Waterford, who will go to Rio should Lowry opt out.

Beyond that, Ireland's Olympic men's golf team is out of options, but McGinley said he fully respects the decisions made by Rory McIlroy, whose withdrawal was announced on Wednesday, and McDowell.

Yesterday's announcement by McDowell that he was declining the chance to replace McIlroy put the spotlight on Lowry who has been carefully considering all relevant information before he makes up his mind.

Engaged

If the Zika virus controversy had not arisen, there would be no issue for Lowry who has been consistently enthusiastic about the prospects of representing his country in the Olympics.

But as a newly-wed - he and his wife Wendy got married in New York on April 13 - the Offaly man has to consider the bigger picture, as was the case for McIlroy, who is engaged to fiancée Erica Stoll.

Graeme McDowell's wife Kristin is expecting the arrival of a baby son on August 29, and he wasted little time in making his feelings known once McIlroy withdrew.

In a statement released yesterday, McDowell said: "As many within golf will know my wife Kristin is pregnant and is due to have our second child just a couple of weeks after the Olympic Golf competition concludes.

"I made the decision many months ago, before I was on the Team, that I would not play or travel outside the US, where my family and I live, in the weeks running up to the birth."

"Unfortunately, I will therefore not be available to replace Rory on the team. I have informed Paul McGinley and the Olympic Council of Ireland of my decision."

"I've always been a proud member of Ireland's golf teams, from my amateur career through to playing in four World Cups of Golf for Ireland and I wish the Irish Olympic Team the very best of luck in Rio."

Team manager McGinley has covered all the bases he can in relation to an unfortunate situation.

"At the moment the team is Shane and Pádraig. I spoke with Pádraig this morning in Japan. I had a chat with him for about 20 minutes. He would be honoured and delighted if he makes the team.

"Right now, Pádraig is about 60 spots ahead of Seamus Power in the World rankings.

"If Pádraig holds the spot as the next leading qualified Irishman, he will be on the team.

"If Seamus Power jumps him - the closing date is 11th of July - then Seamus Power will represent Ireland with Shane.

"I've spoken with Seamus. I'm covering all the angles. He's enthusiastic. He would represent Ireland if he gets the chance, and would look forward to it," said McGinley.

His reaction to McDowell's statement was one of disappointment.

"We've lost another world-class player. Of course I'm disappointed. Again, it's done for reasons outside my control.

"As I say, we'll move on.

"Pádraig would be a tremendous addition to the team, and I think he'd be a tremendous addition to the Irish team in general, not just golf.

"To have him around our athletes would be really good for the OCI because he's such a big personality," said McGinley.

Leona Maguire, who is playing in the British Ladies amateur championship, and Stephanie Meadow remain committed to the Olympic cause, but Meadow needs to improve in the rankings to qualify.

Irish Independent

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