Lowry sets Ryder Cup spot as 'big goal' for year ahead
Shane Lowry didn't need Pádraig Harrington to troll him on Twitter to know that it's the small details that add up to proving he's a Ryder Cup star in waiting.
The popular Offaly man (31) makes his 2019 bow alongside Greystones' Paul Dunne and 14 of the world's top 50 in the Abu Dhabi HSBC Championship today.
His goal is to chip away at his world ranking as he begins his 11th season on the European Tour ranked 75th in the world.
And while Harrington couldn't resist poking some good-humoured fun at his frequent practice green victims after topping the scrambling charts in Europe last year, it could also be interpreted as the Dubliner's first go at Ryder Cup team building.
"To think [they] believe they are winning overall in our chipping competitions for the year," Harrington tweeted impishly, just 10 days before his appointment as 2020 skipper. "If they swallow their pride I might spot them a point next year."
Lowry knows he has yet to realise his full potential and aims to put that right this year. He rose as high as 17th in the world shortly after winning the 2015 WGC Bridgestone Invitational and few would have imagined then that he would go three years without a win or fail to make the last two Ryder Cup teams, especially after his runner-up finish in the 2016 US Open at Oakmont.
Nobody is more disappointed than Lowry himself and having failed to juggle his PGA Tour and European Tour commitments last season, losing his US card, he's determined to make 2019 a watershed year.
"I feel like the last couple of years have been quite stale, going to the States, messing about with my schedule and playing too much, doing too much travel," Lowry said at the World Cup last year.
"When you feel like you are good enough to be there, you are watching it, and there's something deep down, a bit of jealousy in there. I am not old, but I am getting on. I am 33 for the next Ryder Cup, and I need to start making a move and making one soon."
He admits that making Harrington's team is a "big goal" and after a busy off-season, Lowry is looking for a fast start to the year as he heads from Abu Dhabi to the Omega Dubai Desert Classic and the inaugural Saudi International. He's likely to join Harrington in the AT&T Pebble Beach Pro-Am from February 7-10 and could qualify for the WGC Mexico Championship next month if he makes the world's top 50, or the top 10 in the Race to Dubai, by February 11.
With Americans Brooks Koepka and Dustin Johnson, the world numbers two and three, headlining the field in Abu Dhabi, this week's European Tour curtain-raiser is a golden opportunity for Lowry and 106th-ranked Dunne to pick up juicy world ranking points.
As for Rory McIlroy, he underlined his commitment to the PGA Tour by adding next week's the Farmers Insurance at Torrey Pines to his schedule - his second new event in as many starts. He could be joined by seven-time winner Tiger Woods, who has until Friday to commit.