Lowry hopes to measure up for Monty
SHANE LOWRY was playing a friendly three-ball with Rory McIlroy and Graeme McDowell at Wentworth yesterday when Colin Montgomerie rolled up in a golf buggy.
Europe's Ryder Cup skipper first conversed with McDowell after the Portrush man had played out of a greenside bunker at 15.
Next he spoke to McIlroy, congratulating him on his recent victory at Quail Hollow before plainly imparting the same information he'd relayed to McDowell and every other player at Wentworth yesterday in clear contention for the team at Celtic Manor.
Namely, that the home side's official outfitters, Glenmuir (on-course wear), Canali (suits, blazers and off-course clothing) and Proquip (waterproof gear) were measuring up the European likely lads in the Wentworth clubhouse, a process which continues today.
Lowry hovered for a moment or two, unnoticed by Montgomerie, before shuffling off to the 16th tee alone.
For sure, the Clara lad is a lot further down the Ryder Cup pecking order than McIlroy or McDowell right now, so Monty, a busy man after all, had no official reason to communicate with him.
However, one year and a day after completing one of the most sensational victories in European Tour history, surely the '3' Irish Open champion was worthy of some acknowledgement?
Motivation comes in many different guises and Lowry, if he wishes, should be spurred on by yesterday's not-so-close encounter with the European captain ... and a high-placing in this week's €4.5m BMW PGA Championship would certainly propel the 23-year-old into the Ryder Cup fitting room.
McIlroy and McDowell certainly aren't the only Irish players being measured up for the Ryder Cup this week -- the outfitters also wanted to run the rule over Padraig Harrington, two places behind McIlroy in the world points list, plus Gareth Maybin and Darren Clarke, who rank with McDowell in the top-30 on the European charts.
This is Lowry's first competition at Wentworth but his two playing companions yesterday both believe the €8.75m facelift, conducted by the club's most famous member, Ernie Els, and its proprietor Richard Caring, has significantly improved the famous West Course.
Els admitted yesterday he'd been "quite anxious" as he set out on his practice round yesterday, as much about the condition of the refurbished course after one of the toughest winters in recent memory and "the arrows" his fellow professionals might throw at him.
In McIlroy's case he needn't have worried as the gifted youngster gave the changes an unqualified thumbs-up, but McDowell wasn't as effusive.
"Overall, I like it," he said. "I think it's 14 holes of improvement, though there are three or four which have question marks over them. I think 18 is one of them, 17 is another and so are 12 and 8."
The majority of players will now lay up at both of Wentworth's famous par-five finishing holes, McDowell contended. "All of a sudden, 17 is not worth taking on in two anymore," he explained, pointing to the deep hollow to the right of the new small green and the awkward little swale on the left.
As for 18, which now has a stream meandering in front and to the left of a narrow green, protected on the right by very deep bunkers, the Ulsterman said: "It used be a great chance of three and now it's a good four."
Yet McDowell still believes the course changes give him a better chance of consolidating his position in the world's elite top-50 by Sunday and clinching his place in this summer's US Open at Pebble Beach and The Open at St Andrews.
Tiger Woods, meanwhile, has confirmed he will compete in The British Open at St Andrews in July. Woods will aim to become the first to become a three-time Open champion in Scotland after victories in 2000 and 2005.
- Annika Sorenstam, arguably the greatest female golfer in history, has agreed to serve as vice-captain to European skipper Alison Nicholas at next year's Solheim Cup in Ireland.
Sorenstam will join England's Joanne Morley -- vice-captain in Nicholas' losing team at Sugar Grove, Illinois, last year -- on the roster at Killeen Castle.