Monday 27 May 2019

It's great for golf and Team Ireland that Rory is playing in Tokyo, I don't envy the choice he had to make - Shane Lowry

Shane Lowry plays his shot from the 16th tee during a practice round prior to the 2019 PGA Championship at the Bethpage Black course in Farmingdale, New York. Photo: Warren Little/Getty Images
Shane Lowry plays his shot from the 16th tee during a practice round prior to the 2019 PGA Championship at the Bethpage Black course in Farmingdale, New York. Photo: Warren Little/Getty Images

Brian Lowry in New York

Shane Lowry got "a lot of stick" for skipping Rio but he has total respect for the agonising Rory McIlroy has had to go through before committing to playing for Team Ireland at next year's Olympic Games in Japan.

The pair have become close again in recent years and while both will be going for gold in Tokyo and the chance to follow in the lucrative footsteps of Olympic champion Justin Rose, whose endorsement income since his Rio success has dwarfed his US Open earnings, Lowry sees it as a huge opportunity for Irish golf.

"I think it is great for golf and great for Team Ireland that he is playing," said Lowry, who is feeling good about his chances of putting in a big performance at Bethpage Black in the US PGA, starting today.

"I hope I am his partner. I am a long way in the right direction, I have a good few points on the board."

Lowry and McIlroy are both members of the Bear's Club in Florida and played together with future Olympic team manager Neil Manchip just last Friday before more practice in each other's company this week.

They were deep in conversation for most of the evening in the bar at Adare Manor 12 months ago when the revamped golf course reopened with an exhibition match with Pádraig Harrington and Paul McGinley,

As a result, Lowry has heard first-hand about McIlroy's difficulties in coming to a decision on the Olympic issue, just three years after both men pulled out of the Rio de Janeiro games citing their fears over the Zika virus.

"He has had it difficult over the last number of years with the whole thing, with trying to decide, and I don't envy those choices," Lowry said as he played with Harrington in practice and was irked to lose $100 (€89) to the grinning Ryder Cup captain.

"I have known for a while (he was going to play for Ireland), he has told me, and I have been around him a bit down in Florida. Neil is the team manager for the next Olympics, so he has been talking to Neil about it.

"Look, it is great for the game and great for Team Ireland. I definitely didn't try to encourage him. He is his own man and it is up to him.

"But we seem to have built a nice relationship up over the last couple of years. If I am there we will have a good time. We played a lot growing up. He was a little bit before me but we kind of overlapped the last couple of years.

"We won European Team Championships together (in 2007) and when you win those tournaments you never forget. The amateur days were the best days of my life, playing for Ireland.

"I got a lot of stick about not playing the last Olympics, but playing for Ireland means a whole lot and I have played a couple of times in the World Cup and I hope to make the Olympics.

"The Olympics is a really big deal. Justin won gold and Henrik (Stenson) and Matt Kuchar were the three medal winners.

"We have a lot of huge tournaments to play in all year, the thing for golfers is it is another event obviously, a big event, but for most of the other athletes it is every four years.

"We have a lot of other stuff to play for, it probably means a lot more to them but I am sure as the years go on and it becomes bigger for golf and I think it will mean more.

"Golfers get a lot of enjoyment from just going there and being around the other athletes, that's the feedback I got from the last one."

Lowry might be well-placed in the Olympic Golf rankings but his goal this week is to put in a big performance and he admits that the 7,400-yards-plus Black Course at Bethpage will be a beast.

"I think I can give it a run," he said.

"I wouldn't be playing if I didn't think I could. I will go quietly about my business the first couple of days and hopefully get myself there or thereabouts.

"The top of world golf is as good as it has ever been."

Lowry played 29 holes in practice over the first two days before heading out again with McIlroy yesterday and knows that straight driving and stellar wedge play will be key.

"It's long, it requires good driving and it's going to be difficult," he said.

"All parts of your game need to be very sharp this week, especially driving the ball well. Your wedge play needs to be very good because if you do miss fairways then that's where your wedge play is going to come in.

"I will be fairly confident I will do OK. I know better than anyone golf's a funny game and you don't know what's around the corner. I have prepared as best I can and I will see what it gives me. I will try my best."

Irish Independent

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