Opportunity knocks for Lowry - Harrington

OPPORTUNITY: Shane Lowry is in line for Ryder Cup place. Photo: Matt Sullivan/Getty Images

Brian Keogh

Shane Lowry has a golden opportunity at the $12.5 million Players Championship to take a giant leap in his bid for a Ryder Cup spot.

European skipper Pádraig Harrington is thrilled how his team is shaping up so far and he sees the Open champion as a player who can join the likes of Graeme McDowell, Lee Westwood and Tyrrell Hatton in the contending for a spot on the plane to Wisconsin.

"Shane's statistical percentage of making the team has only been growing exponentially so far this season," Harrington said.

"His form is excellent. He is doing everything I could ask of him at this stage. I just want him to make it easy on me."

While Rory McIlroy is the red-hot favourite to become the first man to successfully defend The Players as he tees off with world No 2 Jon Rahm and No 3 Brooks Kopeka (5.51pm Irish time), Lowry is just waiting for a hot week with the putter to roar right into the Ryder Cup frame.

Ranked fifth for strokes gained putting on the PGA Tour last season, he might be 134th this term but his tee to green play as been encouraging, which is key this week.

He tied for 21st in his last outing at the Honda Classic and after skipping the Arnold Palmer Invitational at Bay Hill, he's had time to reset and prepare for Sawgrass, where he partners Chilean star Joaquin Niemann and American Aaron Wise (4.13pm Irish time).

Graeme McDowell, who tees it up with Chez Reavie and Daniel Berger (12.35 Irish time) will also have high hopes of putting in a good performance at a course where he was leading by a shot with a round to go in 2011 but shot 79 to end up tied 33rd.

"You just have to man up and hit the shots out here," Lowry said on his second appearance at Sawgrass in 2016, when he finished a career-best tied 16th behind Jason Day.

"There are no holes where you can sit back and relax. Sometimes you can get complacent around golf courses that are less difficult than this one, but this course is very demanding with every shot."

The winner will take home $2.25 million on Sunday but there will be nothing for the rank and file European Tour regulars to play for until the Andalucia Masters at Valderrama at the end of April.

Following the postponement last week of this week's Magical Kenya Open due to coronavirus concerns, the European Tour and the Asian Tour yesterday postponed next week's Hero Indian Open after the latest public health travel advisories announced by the Indian government.

Players Championship,

Live Sky Sports, 11.30am