Monday 19 February 2018

Next win just round the corner – Shane Lowry

Howell ends seven-year famine as Clara man falls one shot short

Shane Lowry in action at St Andrews
Shane Lowry in action at St Andrews
David Howell celebrates after winning the 2013 Alfred Dunhill Links Championships at St Andrews yesterday

William S Callahan

Shane Lowry believes he is close to a return to the winner's circle he last entered in Portugal 12 months ago after an impressive return to form saw him fall one-shot short of tieing for a play-off at the Alfred Dunhill Links Championship.

As David Howell ended a seven-year wait for a victory, after defeating over-night leader Peter Uihlein at the second extra hole, Lowry was determined to look on the positives despite letting a first victory since the Portugal Masters last year slip from his grasp.

While Howell took advantage of the front nine to pick up five birdies, Lowry stormed into the lead with a run of birdie-eagle-birdie around the turn.

Dropped shots at the 13th and 15th proved costly for Lowry, however, and after a superb approach to the 15th gave Howell a birdie to catch Uihlein on 23-under, neither player was able to find a decisive birdie the closing stretch.

Lowry and England's Tom Lewis finished a shot outside the play-off, Lewis charging through the field with a 64 and Lowry eventually carding a closing 68.

"It was obviously a great week for me," Lowry said. "I fell one short, but you can't really beat yourself up about that. I didn't hit a great chip shot on 10, it just hit the flag and it went in.

"When you do stuff like that you start to think maybe it's going to be your day. But the holes coming in were playing tough and a sloppy bogey on 15 was the costly one. But I can't complain really. If I keep doing what I'm doing, I can't see a win being too far round the corner."

For Howell the victory was the end of "a long, long road from the depths of despair," but it also confirmed his return as a competitor.

"I wasn't a happy camper," said Howell. "I made some poor decisions and took a while to sort through them. You can't do your job if you're not happy and I certainly didn't help my cause."

Howell added that he did not want to go into detail, but it is common knowledge in golf circles that his nadir was when he and long-term girlfriend Emily split up for a significant period a few years ago. His road to redemption began when they got back together, and then married in 2009. Their first child, Freddie, was born last year, and they have twins due in December.

"I had lost my way in life and on the course as well," Howell continued.

"It's obviously a really sweet moment to be happy and settled with Emily and Freddie at home and the twins on the way. Life has never been better, and to win a massive championship seals the fact that things are good at the moment and I'm in a really happy place.


"I owe Emily a debt of gratitude for having me back, for showing me the light, shall we say, that we were always going to be a happy couple in the end. It's a great off-course story. I know I owe a lot of people many thanks for getting my golf back on course as well."

As long as the wait may have been, it is not a huge surprise as Howell has shown a welcome return to form over the past 18 months. He finished 62nd in last year's Race to Dubai table, and has claimed a handful of top-10 finishes in 2013 already.

Howell admitted that he had felt nervous even as he propelled himself into contention over the first three rounds of the Dunhill event, but when the pressure was really on during the final day he was surprised to find he was actually rather calm.

He had to be. Howell moved towards the top of the leaderboard with a lovely front nine that saw him post five birdies, but there was pressure all the way. Thomas Levet piled it on with birdies at six of the first seven holes, then Lowry started to make the running, hitting the front with an eagle at the 10th.

As Howell signed for his round of 67, Uihlein closed out with a 69, setting up a play-off between the two. They posted matching fours going up the first hole, but Howell was in the better position coming back down the 18th, sealing the win with his nerveless birdie putt.

A cheque of €589,562 will propel Howell back up the rankings, virtually guaranteeing his presence in a host of big tournaments. At which point, he can start to dream of a third Ryder Cup appearance, to add to his involvement in the (winning) European sides of 2004 and 2006. "It's impossible to get in without playing in the biggest events, and that's what makes a victory like this so important," he said. (© Daily Telegraph, London)

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