Sport Golf

Sunday 21 January 2018

Lowry coach puts human factor ahead of stats

Shane Lowry lines up a putt on the 11th green during the second round at the Genesis Open at Riviera Country Club (Photo by Robert Laberge/Getty Images)
Shane Lowry lines up a putt on the 11th green during the second round at the Genesis Open at Riviera Country Club (Photo by Robert Laberge/Getty Images)
Liam Kelly

Liam Kelly

Tour professionals are deluged with statistical information which puts every aspect of their game under scrutiny and ranks them against their peers.

Useful? Informative? Helpful in identifying trends and highlighting actual or potential problem areas?

The answer has to be 'yes', but that's a qualified 'yes' in the opinion of Neil Manchip, who is coach to Shane Lowry and also the Golfing Union of Ireland's National Coach.

The overall PGA Tour stats for Lowry show he is currently sixth in 'strokes gained off the tee'; 16th in 'strokes gained approach the green'; 116th in 'strokes gained around the green'; 125th in 'strokes gained putting'; 14th in 'strokes gained tee to green'; and 22nd in 'strokes gained - total'.

And that's just the start of the breakdown in measurements of the Clara native's game for the five tournaments he has played - one in the WGC-HSBC Champions last October and four events in 2017 up to the Genesis Open, which was won by Dustin Johnson last Sunday.

At first glance, surely there are alarm bells around the putting and Lowry's performance close to the green.

I put it to the coach that perhaps they might look at stats, such as putting, and immediately go to work on improving that area of his player's game.

However, Manchip and Lowry never get too concerned about the statistics because of the human factor that remains at the core of a player's performance.

"No, we wouldn't do that because it's too short term. It's really showing you the past," says Manchip.

"Just because something wasn't great last week, or the week before, doesn't mean it's not going to be great the next week, and vice-versa.

"So we just keep an eye on it. We'd work on short game, we'd work on all sorts of distances of pitches, on shots off the tee, iron shots, the whole lot. The thing about Shane is that he has a good overall game, but like any golfer, not every part of it is as good as you'd like at the same time."

Lowry scheduled four tournaments in a row up to the Genesis Open with a view to gaining some traction on the 2017 segment of the PGA Tour season before taking time off for the birth of his first child with wife Wendy.

The baby is due in the next week, and golf will take second place to family commitments for the next month or so.

Ideally, Lowry would not play four successive events in the USA, but the impending birth necessitated a longer stint than he would have liked.

It ended slightly prematurely with a withdrawal from the Genesis Open last Friday when it was clear he was going to miss the cut, but overall Manchip reckons Lowry can be satisfied with his game.

"Shane was happy to get back on Tour at Torrey Pines. I went over there with him," says Manchip.

"He played well, got better with each week, and then didn't play so well early last week.

"On the PGA Tour, playing four in a row is tough, but he's quite happy with his game, and will continue to work hard in the next few weeks, depending on what he has to do at home."

Pádraig Harrington, the 2015 champion, plays his fifth successive event in the Honda Classic at PGA National, which starts today. Harrington is joined by fellow Irishmen Graeme McDowell and Seamus Power.

Meanwhile, Darren Clarke and Paul Dunne are in action in the Joburg Open in South Africa on the European Tour schedule.

Joburg Open

Live, Sky Sports 4, 8.30am

The Honda Classic

Live, Sky Sports 4, 7.0pm

Irish Independent

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