Saturday 18 January 2020

No need for Lowry to panic

Padraig Harrington and Shane Lowry. Photo: Getty
Padraig Harrington and Shane Lowry. Photo: Getty

Liam Kelly

Pádraig Harrington will not stand by and let Shane Lowry get down in the dumps after his US PGA disappointment.

Lowry missed the cut at Baltusrol, his second successive missed cut in a Major after failing to make the weekend in the Open at Troon, and did not hide his feelings last Friday.

In the immediate minutes after signing his card, Lowry was understandably upset, and feared his chances of a place on the Ryder Cup team were evaporating.

Sports fan Lowry got his mind away from golf by attending the Carl Frampton fight in Brooklyn on Saturday night before moving onto Connecticut, where The Travelers Championship will be played at TPC River Highlands this week.

Harrington, described by top sports psychologist Dr Bob Rotella as "by his nature, he is an upbeat enthusiastic guy," is also playing The Travelers and is due to play a practice round with Lowry today.

He shot a super 65 in the US PGA on Saturday and rounded off his 18th appearance in the US PGA with 68 for a six-under-par total, and tied-13th.

On Saturday and Sunday, the three-time Major champion played alongside Danny Willett, the Masters winner, and gave him the benefit of his experience on Tour.


Today, Harrington will not be shy about chatting to Lowry.

The man from Clara knows all about the vagaries of Tour life, but it might be good to be reminded of how tough it is to deal with expectations, particularly when chasing for Major titles and Ryder Cup teams.

In the hunt for more, and better, performances can suffer, and Harrington has seen it all in 20 years on Tour.

He feels that while players are building their base and pushing to improve, it's one thing, but once they step out of the pack and produce significant results, it's a blow when it seems to go into reverse.

Harrington said: "Look, every pro out here is trying to live with that. It comes and goes. It's just the nature of the game. I really don't know a pro who isn't.

"I always say, where do you set your sights? To be able to come on Tour and have these incredible, crazy goals that you're always trying to reach for, that keeps you pushing, whereas when you start playing well, and all of a sudden you're trying to live up to that, it does crazy things to your head.

"I'm due to have a practice round with Shane on Tuesday and I'll be having a chat with him.

"Maybe he wants it, maybe he doesn't, but I'll certainly be having a chat," said Harrington.

The Dubliner has noticed that the 'elder statesman' role and his past record does carry weight with the younger players.

He's not ready yet for the carpet slippers, but is not reluctant to dispense advice where he feels it might be helpful.

"I don't mind. I've got to the stage in my career that I don't mind saying things and telling people things.

"I would have been much more defensive when I was a young guy, and would have thought that if I had the secret, I would have tried to keep it. But it doesn't bother me now. I'm sure that if Shane wants to listen, then we'll have a chat.

"I'd be the same with any of the European guys, with anybody, the young US guys or whoever. Probably one of things I've noticed in the last few years when I haven't been playing so well is the general respect that you get from the younger players. It's quite baffling.

"I go out there and I'm playing with two of the new guys on Tour and I'm battling away to shoot 72, or 73, and I'm really grinding.

"It's a tough day and I come in and I'm sitting there, and I might be having lunch with the guys, and then all of a sudden, the conversation starts maybe about the Majors or whatever.

"Suddenly you realise they weren't looking at me out there going, 'Gee whizz, he's having a tough day, he's struggling.'

"While I was out there grinding, they're going, 'Wow, this guy has won three Majors, isn't he fabulous?'

"But you talk about expectations, it's a very strange game. The more you try and live up to somebody else's idea or your own idea, the harder it gets," he said.

This week is a prelude to the Rio Olympics, and Harrington has his fingers crossed that everything goes well, on and off the course.

"I'm so lucky to be in there. Guys pulled out to my benefit big time, I'm thrilled that I am going, I am actually a little nervous, I don't want anything to happen between now and then, I don't want to get injured or anything like that.

"I want to be an Olympic athlete and clearly I am now at the form that I can actually go on and win it.

"My preparations, it's all about getting that right. Mentally, I think I have it where I need it to be to perform," he said.

Meanwhile, Jimmy Walker was coming to terms with his new-found status as a Major champion, ten years after joining the PGA Tour. Born in Oklahoma, living in Texas, with just five Tour wins, he became the fourth first-time Major winner of the season at Baltusrol.

Walker's remarkable display was underpinned by his steadiness and calm demeanour as he led the championship after each round.

He had to play 36 holes on Sunday due to the rain that blitzed the third round on Saturday, and he had to deal with holder Jason Day slamming home an eagle three on the last hole to lie just one off Walker's lead.

Standing in the fairway of the 18th, Walker knew par five would be good enough. He slid his three-wood approach wide and down into rough on the bank beside the green, but got safely on the putting surface and two putts secured his victory.

"It sure makes me look forward to more. But I think it just shows how deep golf is. Anybody can win," he said.

Irish Independent

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