Monday 23 October 2017

Lowry taking route to glory step by step

Shane Lowry is determined to improve on his fourth place finish last week Photo: Getty Images
Shane Lowry is determined to improve on his fourth place finish last week Photo: Getty Images

Karl MacGinty

SHANE LOWRY is prepared to go a lot further than the proverbial 'extra mile' to clinch his first victory as a professional -- for the second week in succession, Lowry undertook an added reconnaissance mission in the searing desert sun.

On top of a pre-tournament practice regime of 27 holes at Doha Golf Club, Clara's Irish Open champ then walked another nine just to be certain of his bearings on all 18 tees when the Qatar Masters begins today.

The difference between Lowry now and the fresh-faced amateur who pulled off that sensational victory at Baltray last May can be measured with every one of those extra steps he took on the golf course.

Lowry believes it paid off handsomely last week with the fourth-place finish at the Abu Dhabi Championship, which propelled him into the world's top-100 for the first time.

And the 22-year-old from Esker Hills is keeping his fingers crossed that another blue-riband performance against world-class opposition this weekend in Doha will lift him even higher than 90th on the global ladder.

Lowry's driving was outstanding last week and it'll need to be every bit as impressive in Doha as he squares up to a challenge which PGA Tour veteran Kenny Perry summed up perfectly.

"The golf course surprised me," said Perry. "It reminds (me) of a US Open with the rough as difficult as it is, while the high winds we've had over the last couple of days make it play more like a British Open. It's a very difficult test."

Yet forewarned is forearmed as far as Lowry's concerned. "With the rough so thick, there'll be a lot of emphasis on driving. Hopefully, I'll be able to keep mine going quite nicely this weekend.

"It was a bit dodgy on the front nine last Sunday but I got it going on the back nine and on the tougher holes I just stood up and was drilling it down the fairway, and that's what it was all about.

"I put more preparation into last week. I walked the course, got to know it a little bit better and that was important because I was nearly able to pick the shot before I got to the tee.

"Sometimes last year, I walked onto the tee asking, 'what hole is this?' I wouldn't remember. Yet good preparation made all the difference in Abu Dhabi and I've done everything I can to ensure this week is the same."

Though happy with his best finish on the European Tour in eight months as a professional, Lowry sees it as "a step in the right direction, I suppose," with an edge of ambition creeping into the Offaly man's voice as he added: "I've to try and keep it going now and moving upwards."

This weekend presents another golden opportunity for Lowry and his European Tour colleagues to climb the world ladder. With five of golf's top-10 and nine of the top-20 in action in Doha, for the second week in a row, there are substantially more ranking points on offer here than in the US.

For example, the winner in Qatar will receive 54 points, against 42 at The Farmers Insurance Open at Torrey Pines. It doesn't happen often at other stages of the season, but the European Tour's Desert Swing each year gives its members a glorious chance to boost their prospects of playing in the Majors and World Golf Championships.

Treasure

Lowry will be joined by four fellow Irishmen in this weekend's treasure hunt; Graeme McDowell, Gareth Maybin, Damien McGrane and Peter Lawrie.

Henrik Stenson, a strong form horse in Doha after his victory in 2006 and runner-up finishes behind Ernie Els in '05 and Adam Scott in '08, has decided to take out full US Tour membership once again this year after a couple of seasons playing there as a guest.

The talented Swede, winner of the Tour Players Championship at Sawgrass last May, will base his young family in his new home at the Lake Nona Resort in Orlando, Florida, for much of the first half of the season before returning to Europe.

Qatar Masters,

Live, Sky Sports 1, 8.0

Irish Independent

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