Saturday 17 February 2018

Forget the Majors and the millions, maybe it's better being Lowry than McIlroy

Rory McIlroy
Rory McIlroy
Shane Lowry

Karl MacGinty

SHANE LOWRY doesn't have any Major titles to his name (yet!) and, despite winning an eminently respectable €3m on the golf course in four years as a professional, his earnings pale alongside Rory McIlroy's riches.

In comparison with McIlroy, his one-time foursomes partner during their teenage years on the national amateur squad, Lowry's career has been on a relatively slow boil.

The Clara, Co Offaly, native is capable of the spectacular, like his historic win as an amateur in the 2009 Irish Open or last October's long-awaited first tournament success as a professional in the Portugal Masters.

Lowry also has felt the grinding ache of frustration on the course, not least last Saturday when his sense of duty to the Irish Open patently bore down upon him.

His cathartic 69 and subsequent share of fifth place behind Paul Casey on Sunday shines like a diamond in a season of discovery and no little disappointment as Lowry failed in his effort to skip from 52nd in the world rankings at the start of the year into the elite top 50.

Taking this short but hugely significant step seemed to inhibit him and, after a ninth-place finish at the Volvo Champions, he missed the cut in Abu Dhabi and Dubai.


Encouraged by America's excited reaction to his first-round victory over McIlroy at the Accenture Match Play, Lowry decided to accept a few tournament invitations in the US. Lowry's brief taste of the PGA Tour action was not so sweet, however, as he missed the cut in four of five events.

Now he believes he's better off building his global profile amid friends and the intimacy of European golf's travelling circus.

"The money's not as big in Europe but I don't play for the money," he said at Carton. "I play to try to compete and win tournaments, and money's just a secondary thing that comes from it."

McIlroy is motivated in exactly the same way, though his exalted achievements have helped establish the world No 2 as a rival to Tiger Woods as the highest-paid athlete in world sport.

The 24-year-old's mercurial talent has also brought him celebrity beyond the ken of many colleagues, Ryder Cup captain Paul McGinley among them.

"I got a real eye-opener at Medinah last year," said McGinley, astonished by McIlroy's 'rock star' status in the US. "It was the first time I'd seen him up close in America and it was quite incredible. People at home don't realise what he has to deal with behind the scenes. Yet Rory handles it quite well."

Delighted to be reunited with girlfriend Caroline Wozniacki in Monaco yesterday, McIlroy insists: "I'm very happy with my life, I wouldn't want it any other way."

Good luck to both of them but one suspects Lowry would be far less comfortable swimming in the celebrity fish tank. He enjoys too much the freedom to do everyday things. Like having a few pints at his local or cheering the 'Lightning Bolts' from St Mary's Rugby Club to victory at this year's Kinsale Sevens, for example – Lowry and Elm Park assistant Dara Lernihan travelled to Kinsale and slept in a rented VW camper van.

Meanwhile, among Lowry's biggest ambitions this year is to make Ireland's World Cup team at Royal Melbourne, followed by a few weeks touring Australia with another good pal who recently emigrated.

"I want to do things other lads my age are doing," he recently explained. Things megastars like Woods, Neymar, Roger Federer and, of course, McIlroy really cannot do in comfort.

Lowry is naturally gifted and a lot more ambitious than his affable demeanour suggests, so he'll eventually join McIlroy in golf's upper echelons.

Being left alone to try to 'save' the Irish Open after Ireland's four Major champions missed the cut placed him under a crushing pressure, not dissimilar to that endured by the Holywood native every time he steps up to the tee.

Lowry has never been slow to show emotion ... for example, he literally doubled up in despair after hitting what he later described as a "brain-dead" drive into a bunker at the sixth during Saturday's nightmare 74.

Yet, as the "most disappointing and frustrating" round of his life came to its conclusion, Lowry still interacted with spectators, for example, lifting his cap and beaming like a veritable lighthouse as he walked to the green at 17.

Even after chipping and putting poorly for a painful bogey there and again at the par-five 18th, he kept his anger in check long enough to graciously acknowledge the crowd.

In contrast, as the tide runs against McIlroy, he withdraws into a sullen shell. McIlroy putted badly in Carton but his game won't give him much to smile about until Nike provide him with a driver he can wield with the same authority as his old Titleist.

He meets the boffins on Thursday to try out a number of options – upon this session, his prospects of contending at next month's British Open almost certainly rest.

As McIlroy tries to pick his way out of the wilderness, one cannot help feeling that Lowry, with his 'modest' €3m winnings as a touring pro is infinitely better off than his fabulously wealthy fellow countryman.

Irish Independent

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