Thursday 27 June 2019

Lowry aims to maintain form as McIlroy eyes Augusta push


Shane Lowry. Photo: Kamran Jebreili/AP
Shane Lowry. Photo: Kamran Jebreili/AP

Brian Keogh

Shane Lowry is gunning to continue his hot run of form and get some US Open reconnaissance under his belt in the AT&T Pebble Beach Pro-Am as Rory McIlroy counts down to the Masters.

The world No 44 wants to build on his win in Abu Dhabi and his top 12 in Dubai when he tees it up with Gerry McManus in a fourball at Spyglass Hill with Rafael Cabrera-Bello and Dermot Desmond.

Graeme McDowell is making his 2019 debut alongside Paul Casey at Pebble Beach, the scene of his 2010 US Open win, after an 11-week break. But McIlroy is pacing himself for a crack at the career Grand Slam and skipping Pebble Beach.

The Co Down man (29) reappears in next week's Genesis Open at Riviera for the first of five countdown events to the Masters, believing he will get that green jacket sooner or later.

"I'm doing all the right things by putting myself in position, so I just have to stay patient," said McIlroy, who has had five top-ten finishes in a row at Augusta National.

Positive "Obviously, I would love to be able to complete the Grand Slam before I am 30 but you look at some of the greats of the game, and they did not start winning Majors until their early or mid-30s. I'm positive it will happen one day. If I keep practising and working hard and doing the right things it will go my way."

Paul Dunne, Gavin Moynihan and Michael Hoey tee it up in the ISPS Handa Vic Open in Melbourne this week with Stephanie Meadow and Leona Maguire playing for equal prize money in the concurrent LPGA event at the same venue.

There will be much interest in how the LPGA stars adjust to Rule 10.2b(4), which prohibits caddies from deliberately standing behind players for any reason as they begin "taking a stance for a stroke".

Following controversial rulings in the Dubai Desert Classic and the Phoenix Open, the USGA and the R&A yesterday clarified the language used in the rule. If a player backs away from a stance, the player is not considered to have begun taking "a stance for the stroke" and can now back away anywhere on the course. The Rule does not apply if a caddie is not "deliberately" standing behind a player.

Meanwhile, the GUI and the ILGU yesterday welcomed a €107,000 increase in Sport Ireland funding for golf with the €750,000 award for 2019 comprising €300,000 for services provided by the Confederation of Golf in Ireland (CGI) and €450,000 for High Performance programmes.

Pebble Beach Pro-Am

Live, Sky Sports Golf, 8.0pm

Vic Open

Live, Sky Sports, 4.0am

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