Saturday 17 March 2018

Shane Lowry eager to extend his hot streak in Sweden

Shane Lowry of Ireland (Photo by Andrew Redington/Getty Images)
Shane Lowry of Ireland (Photo by Andrew Redington/Getty Images)
Liam Kelly

Liam Kelly

SHANE Lowry tees off today in the Nordea Masters in Malmo, Sweden at ease with his game and hoping that a great week can get even better.

The 27-year-old proud Offaly man banked a cheque for over €560,000 after his second place in the BMW Championship on Sunday, and on Monday romped home to win the US Open qualifying event at Walton Heath and claim a spot at Pinehurst next month.

It's the stuff of dreams, but Lowry is trying to maintain his poise, mentally, physically and emotionally.

He has regrets, particularly the tee-shot on the 13th hole at Wentworth which cost him a double-bogey six, but now it's all about using the last few days as a platform for greater things.

Speaking yesterday, Lowry summed up his approach to his latest test: "I've been playing quite well over the last few weeks and I'm just hoping to take it easy today, get my practice round in, have a look at the course and get ready.

"This is a new tournament. I know I've done well last week and I've done well Monday, but at the end of the day, everyone's standing on the first tee with the same chance of winning."

The two-time Tour winner – once as an amateur in the 2009 Irish Open at Baltray – struggled with his form in the early part of the season but he has now seen the light of inspiration.

"I managed to find something in the Spanish Open, and played quite nicely there, and brought it into Wentworth," he said. "I really enjoyed my time at Wentworth and played really nicely all week, and brought it into Walton Heath on Monday.

"I seem to be playing okay again today, so hopefully I can keep it going for another while anyway.

"Mentally I'm back to where I am when I'm playing my best. I'm switched on and nothing seems to faze me when I'm like this. I just hope, touch wood, I can keep it going."

After this event, Lowry will skip the Lyoness Open in France, and get ready for the US Open from June 12-15. The following week it's back home for the Irish Open at Fota Island Resort in Cork from June 19-22.

Weather conditions in Malmo yesterday were quite cool and windy, but the course suits Lowry's eye, particularly as it resembles his home course Carton House.

"I'm liking the look of this course right now. I don't want to talk myself up too much but I'm feeling all right about the place," said Lowry.

He enters an arena today that features top players, particularly the Scandinavians, all keen to impress the Nordic galleries and claim their own share of glory – and cash.


Denmark's Thomas Bjorn, so impressive for three days at Wentworth, blew a five-shot lead going into the last day to finish joint third behind winner Rory McIlroy and runner-up Lowry.

Bjorn missed a great opportunity of a second win of the season to add to his Nedbank Challenge success in December, but still leads the Race to Dubai. He, too, will command a strong backing from the galleries, as he has made his home in Sweden.

World No 2 Henrik Stenson, winner of the Race to Dubai and the FedEx Cup last year, plays the tournament for the first time since 2011 and will attract huge local support.

Holder Mikko Ilonen of Finland, a West of Ireland champion in his amateur days, can make history if he wins because no player has yet successfully defended the title.

Ilonen knows how difficult this feat is, as he failed to follow up his 2007 victory in the Nordea Masters, but he remains hopeful of making a decent effort this week.

Jonas Blixt of Sweden was runner-up to Ilonen last year, and raised his game to a new level by finishing joint second in the Masters last month.

Blixt is another player who has played in the West of Ireland. Ten years ago he made his one and only appearance in the championship, the same week that a 14-year-old McIlroy announced his arrival on the national GUI scene.

Peter Hanson adds to the Swedish interest. He knows the PGA Sweden National course well as a member of the club, and he also grew up nearby.

Ireland will have a strong representation at Malmo as Damien McGrane, Peter Lawrie, Michael Hoey, Gareth Maybin, Kevin Phelan, David Higgins and Simon Thornton are also in the field.

Meanwhile, Niall Kearney, winner of the 36-hole Newbridge Silverware-sponsored Pro-Am at The K Club on Tuesday, hopes his form carries over into the D+D Real Czech Challenge in the Czech Republic. Kearney shot 70/67 for a winning 137 over the Palmer and Smurfit courses at The K Club to pip overnight leader Damien Mooney.

The Dubliner and Northern Ireland's Gareth Shaw are the only two Irish players playing in the Challenge Tour event which starts this morning.


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Irish Independent

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