Shane Lowry set to take aggressive line in bid for glory
Shane Lowry is contemplating taking the gloves off this week and going on the offensive for a second Dubai Duty Free Irish Open victory.
With Rory McIlroy the big absentee at Lahinch, the Offaly man is the great home hope and he knows that a win worth a whopping €1.16 million would catapult him to the top of the Race to Dubai and make him one of the favourites for The Open.
But it's an uneasy position for the affable Offaly man (32), who has learnt from painful experience that puffing his chest out is not a tactic that works for him.
"I think golfers are like that, aren't we?" he said. "We are not like boxers. We don't stand there and say, 'I am definitely going to win'. I know how fickle this game is and I know it can jump up and bite you quicker than you expect.
"I suppose I am playing down expectations. And I do have expectations or I wouldn't be here this week. But I am just trying to play them down in my own head and go out and play my own game."
Lowry will tee it up with defending champion Russell Knox and world No 20 Tommy Fleetwood, who would be more to his liking for a boxing-style, pre-tournament face-off than beefy Basque star Jon Rahm.
"I wouldn't fancy my chances against him," Lowry joked. "Maybe someone smaller. It might make it a bit more interesting, but we are not that interesting, are we?"
Lowry is far from boring in the way he bobs and weaves when it comes to the thorny question of high hopes - his own and those of the fans.
And while Lahinch has never been a happy hunting ground for him - he never got past the last 16 in three appearances in the South of Ireland as an amateur - he's a far stronger contender, pound-for-pound, than before.
While Lahinch can land some haymakers if the wind gets up, he knows he may have to get on the front foot from the bell.
"I think there's a lot of drivers out there so I think you have to be quite aggressive," Lowry said after playing 10 holes in practice with qualifiers Paul McBride and Conor O'Rourke and sponsor's invitee, Cormac Sharvin.
"If you could somehow drop four, five, six birdies in a day, then you go a long way to getting yourself towards a winning score because you're probably going to make bogeys there and you are going to get your odd bad bounce."
He sees the first seven or eight holes as scoreable but "tricky" and knows that he might have to be on his guard when he plays tough par fours such as the 10th, 14th or 15th.
That said, he admits he's playing some of the best golf of his career and there's no reason why he can't dare to dream, even if he stops short of victory talk.
"I'm feeling good," he admitted. "It's probably the best form-wise I've ever come into an Irish Open, I suppose.
"But I'm doing my best to try and play down expectations and just go out there and enjoy it as much as I can.
"On this golf course, you can get a score going round here, but it can get away from you very quickly as well, so I just need to relax and enjoy it and do the usual things and take it one shot at a time and not get too ahead of myself."
It's been 10 years since Lowry burst onto the scene, winning the Irish Open as an amateur in Co Louth in 2009. But he dare not even contemplate what winning for a second time might mean.
"I don't think anything will top 2009," he said with a wince. "I don't want to even start thinking about what it would mean to win the Irish Open again. I just kind of try not to think about it.
"I'm 32 now and hopefully I've got another 15 or 20 Irish Opens in me. And hopefully, I'll give myself a few chances, and one of them is this week.
"If I do get a chance, I'll be giving it my best to take it with both hands."