Monday 10 December 2018

Confident Lowry is 'in a better place on the course'

Shane Lowry plays a bunker shot during a practice round at Bellerive yesterday. Photo: Stuart Franklin/Getty Images
Shane Lowry plays a bunker shot during a practice round at Bellerive yesterday. Photo: Stuart Franklin/Getty Images

Brian Keogh in St Louis

Shane Lowry doesn't like to talk the talk but he can walk the walk and his new-found confidence was evident as he strutted up the 18th stride for stride with superstars Jon Rahm and Rory McIlroy yesterday.

World No 1 Dustin Johnson had left them earlier in the course of a five-hour practice round and while the big-hitting trio that accompanied the Offaly man around the sweltering St Louis venue are among the red-hot favourites to win the Wanamaker Trophy, Lowry knows he can spoil the party.

"Those guys are always going in with so much pressure on them," he said, pointing out how Francesco Molinari snuck in to win The Open. "A lot of time in these things, someone kind of swoops in from behind.

"I am going out there and giving it my best. I feel great and am in a good place at the minute."

Lowry's up-and-down season came to a head at Carnoustie when he parted company with long-time caddie Dermot Byrne midway through The Open, and he had a smile as wide as Croke Park as he sauntered up the finishing hole with McIlroy and Rahm for company yesterday.

With his father Brendan ambling along and his brother Alan taking a month off work to carry his sticks before he appoints a new man, all seems right with the world

"I am," he said when asked if he was in a happy place. I am feeling good about my game. The last two weeks were good. And I am enjoying having Alan out.

"I knocked on the door the last two weeks, I was there or thereabouts for a while in Canada but obviously Dustin ran away with that a bit. Even out there this morning, I am hitting the ball well.

"I arranged to play with Rory and Jon Rahm and Dustin walked up as well. I don't feel any bit out of my comfort zone with those lads.

"For me, playing with one of the world's best golfers can't be but a help can it? We enjoyed being out there. Good laugh."

Lowry might be giving up a few yards to the big hitters on a 7,300-yard course softened by torrential rain. But as a track with 10 holes that move from right to left, it suits his game well.


Given his high birdie count this year, his problems have been more mental than technical and having his brother has been a positive change of pace.

"I am doing more on the course myself, taking the onus on myself as opposed to having someone to lean on and having someone to blame," he said.

"I think that has helped me. When you hit a bad shot there is nothing else you can do only go up and try and get it up and down.

"You say my body language looks a bit different. It feels different, to be honest. It feels like I am in a better place on the course.

"We've had great fun the last two weeks being out there in the thick of things with Alan on the bag. He's doing a great job."

The bookmakers have made Johnson the favourite to win his second Major this week with McIlroy a close second given his penchant for playing well on rain-softened PGA Championship courses.

Rain has played a role in all four of his Major wins and while he's grouped with Tiger Woods and defending champion Justin Thomas, McIlroy likes his chances despite his failure to win a Major since 2014.

"The times where I haven't won and I haven't played my best, I try to learn from it and I move on," McIlroy said.

"There's no point in reflecting on it too much or dwelling on it."

With Johnson and Thomas both winning over the last fortnight and England's Tommy Fleetwood a major threat given his ball-striking prowess, there is no shortage of title contenders with good vibes.

Lowry found himself smiling at headlines describing double US Open champion Brooks Koepka as the "forgotten man" and while the likes of Justin Rose, Rickie Fowler, Jordan Spieth and Open champion Molinari all capable of winning, Lowry believes he can do some damage.

"I think I could, like," he said. "I feel like every part of my game is pretty good at the minute. Holing a few putts, holing out well and making your pars when you get in trouble."

While Pádraig Harrington has predicted 20-under as a possible winning score, Lowry would happily take four 66s and sit in the clubhouse on 16-under.

"If you are in high single digits going into Sunday, I think you have a chance to win."

As for his battle to make FedEx Cup playoffs and keep his PGA Tour card, he's put that out of his mind until after next week's Wyndham Championship.

"I do care but there is no extra pressure at all," he said.

"If it happens it happens, if not I am going to take a month off and go back to Europe and play the rest of the year.

"Worse things could happen to me. It is all about this week.

"A great goal for me between now and December is to try and get back into that top 50 in the world.

"If I want to play on the PGA Tour next year, I can try and get back that way. If I do it these two weeks, it would be great."

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