Wednesday 7 December 2016

Shane Lowry victory opens door to world of riches

Published 11/08/2015 | 02:30

Shane with WGC trophy
Shane with WGC trophy
Amy (2), Sean (4) and twin sister Edel Gillespie from Ballinamere, Co Offaly, celebrating Shane Lowry’s win at Esker Hills Golf Club near Clara. Photos: Steve Humphreys
Publican Paul Rabbette and his daughter Lorraine at Shane Lowry’s local pub Bunny’s in Clara, Co Offaly
Liam Wyer (78), from nearby Ballykilmurray, used to practise with Shane Lowry
Former taoiseach Brian Cowen with Esker Hills co-owner Ray Molloy and club captain John Boland.
Shane Lowry hugs the tree that he successfully evaded on his crucial approach to the 18th green at the Bridgestone Invitational

Shane Lowry has opened up a world of opportunity by his stunning success in the WGC-Bridgestone Invitational at Firestone CC on Sunday.

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The tangible rewards are immense in terms of money, world rankings, PGA Tour playing rights, European Tour playing rights and sponsorship revenues.

First prize money of €1,412,760 is the biggest cheque he has earned since turning pro in 2009. His career earnings have now gone to over €7 million.

The victory elevated his season's earnings to date to €2,173,864, with just over five months to go and multi-millions of euro available in prize money.

If he didn't strike another ball this year, he still has his card for the PGA Tour guaranteed for the next three years. On the European Tour, he also has no worries about this playing status until the end of 2018.

But just as important for his longer term career are the intangibles: self-confidence, affirmation of the principles and processes he has employed to get to 19th place in the world, and confirmation that his game can match the best.

Prior to the Scottish Open and the Open Championship at St Andrews, Lowry spoke about his game, and how he felt it was coming good, although he wanted to dampen down suggestions a Major win was imminent.

Challenge

He left Gullane slightly disappointed with a tied-31 finish after shooting 66, 66 in the first two rounds. At St Andrews, Lowry felt he was poised to make a decent challenge.

That went pear-shaped, and he was shocked with an eight on the 17th hole in round two en route to missing the cut. The big man from Clara, Co Offaly was furious with himself.

He is a genuinely nice guy, loves all sports, has no airs and graces and enjoys the craic. But make no mistake, Lowry is as competitive as they come when it matters, and demands much of himself.

He did not live up to his own expectations at St Andrews.

On Sunday, at Akron, Ohio, Shane Lowry came good, and he did it in style.

"I can't believe it. I've been playing good most of the year, and things just haven't been going my way. I've missed a couple of cuts by a shot. And I was getting very down on myself.

"I played as good a golf as I've ever played the last four days. I managed to hole a few putts and get a bit of luck, which is nice. It's fairly special to go out and do that, and such a good feeling to shoot a bogey-free 66 on the golf course like that. I know it will stay with me now for the rest of my career, and hopefully I've got a long career ahead of me," said Lowry.

Amen to that. For as long as he plays golf, the proud Offaly man will know that when the going gets tough, he can dig deep into the memory bank and recall that final round at Firestone.

Lowry can also be grateful that in the six years since he turned professional after that epic Irish Open win of 2009 as an amateur, he has gone about his business in his own fashion.

His coach Neil Manchip, the GUI national coach, has been a rock of sense on technical matters and helped keep Lowry grounded and with the right mental attitude.

Caddie Dermot Byrne has been with him since July '09, and with the help of Irish amateur international and fitness coach Robbie Cannon, Lowry has found a fitness regimen that suits his requirements.

Temptations to change swings, caddies, and coaches which afflict so many players have been avoided.

What's interesting about Lowry is his ability to strike in spectacular fashion. He may not win often, but when he does, he makes the world sit up and take notice.

In May 2009, he rocked up at the Irish Open at Baltray as an amateur playing on a sponsor's invitation to the GUI.

By the Sunday evening, he had sensationally defeated hardened pro Robert Rock to take the title.

He had to wait until the Portuguese Masters of 2012 to taste victory as a professional, and since then, Lowry has endured some near misses.

But all the pieces fell into place at Firestone, and even Lady Luck came to his rescue at the right moment, especially with a helpful ricochet off a tree beside the 18th green.

If he wasn't a tree-hugger before, Lowry definitely is now.

"I made a great par on 17. And like I'm not going to lie, I was pretty nervous standing on the 18th tee," he said.

"But I said to myself, I've watched this tournament a lot in the past, and you stand on that 18th tee, and it's very familiar. You stand there and think, right, this is what I'm here for. This is why I came this week. I hit a poor enough tee-shot, to be honest. It was quite a long way left. Probably one of the worst tee-shots I've hit all week.

Horrific

"But I was just going in there praying that I could get it down there on the green. It got down, and it actually had a pretty horrific lie. It was sitting down in a hole. It was almost like someone had stood on it, but it was where the crowd was walking.

"And I just said to Dermot, I'll try and hit sand wedge and just get it down to the front of the green. I pulled it a bit too low and went into the tree. The rest is history."

Lowry can now proceed to write some new chapters in his own golfing history from an entirely new perspective after this World Golf Championship win.

"My game has definitely improved a lot over the last couple of years.

"I played here two years ago, and I'm definitely a much better player than I was back then. I'm probably 20 yards longer than I was. My irons are so much more consistent. My wedge play is better. All around, I'm probably a better player and more mature as a player as well, which is a big thing.

"It was great for me (winning the Irish Open), but this is getting the next stage of my career kick-started. I feel like I've been playing good golf for the last couple of years. I've been in and around the top 50 in the world. Hopefully, the floodgates will open now."

And the next step for Lowry will be this week's US PGA Championship at Whistling Straits and he's going there in buoyant mood.

"I feel good and I feel confident about this week," Lowry said on Newstalk last night. "This is a massive win for me. It's the next best thing to a Major. I feel there's no reason why I can't compete in every tournament that I play in."

Irish Independent

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