Saturday 17 August 2019

'It could have gone pear-shaped'

First-hole swing the difference between golfing immortality and eternal torture for Lowry

Familiar pose: Shane Lowry shows the Claret Jug off to media ahead of his homecoming in Offaly. Photo: Sam Barnes/Sportsfile
Familiar pose: Shane Lowry shows the Claret Jug off to media ahead of his homecoming in Offaly. Photo: Sam Barnes/Sportsfile

Brian Lowry

Two minutes stood between Shane Lowry and golfing immortality or eternal torture on Sunday. Two life-changing minutes.

Had he missed his eight-footer for bogey on the first green and had Tommy Fleetwood made his for birdie, the only thing he knows for certain is that he would have fought to the bitter, and potentially heartbreaking, end.

He felt he'd capitulated in the final round of the 2016 US Open at Oakmont, and failed to give his all when his four-shot lead disappeared.

But this time he found he had what he described as "the balls" to complete what still feels like a surreal victory and claim his first Major title.

"You look at the people who have won one and you look at the names on that trophy," he said, the Claret Jug glittering on the table in the beer garden of House Dublin, an upmarket Leeson Street bar.

"Then you look at the great golfers that haven't won one. It's like, 'Oh my God, I've won one'.

"You always have doubts in your head, don't you? You always have doubts about if you're good enough, if you're good enough to get the job done, or if you put yourself in the position, do you have the balls.

"Literally, that's what it is - do you have the balls to go out there and do it because that's what it takes.

"I've had a couple of bad Sundays in Majors and one particularly bad one. It would have been quite difficult if I didn't win on Sunday, you know, going out with another four-shot lead."

At it turned out, Lowry made it and Fleetwood missed and while the lead was down to three, Offaly's first Major was on its way.

"It could have gone pear-shaped easily enough," Lowry said of the stormy Sunday that will change people's perception of him and what he can do.

"I mean the putt on that first hole, I think people underestimate how difficult that putt was," Lowry said.

"The whole scenario, that two minutes on the first green, Tommy missing his and me holing mine. He holes, I miss, there's only one in it and suddenly I'm starting to think about all sorts."

Just four hours later he was striding up the 18th wishing he could stop time and let the noise wash over him for all eternity.

"I said to (caddie) Bo, walking down 18 on Sunday, 'I can't believe this is happening to me'.

"I'm standing there and I'm trying to take the whole thing in and I just can't."

So what now? Given the celebrations, Lowry has hardly had time to think, but he at least knows he can answer the big questions and that his name will give others pause for thought if they see it on a Major leaderboard or a Ryder Cup team sheet.

"I can't stop looking at my name on it," he said, looking at the famous old trophy.

How many more Majors can he win?

"I'm happy with this now. If I end up in the whole of my career with only one Major, I mean, obviously you'd like to have more but one's enough for now, anyway."

"I honestly haven't had a chance to think straight over the last couple of days. I have hundreds of text messages to get through.

"But I am a very ambitious person so I am obviously going to want to do bigger things in the game," he said.

As for the outpouring of goodwill towards him, he was grateful.

"Irish people are great. They follow us in everything we do," he said, then added impishly.

"If there's a bandwagon, they will jump on it."

He revealed he hummed 'Baby Shark' all the way around having been forced to put the maddening children's tune on for daughter Iris as they travelled to the course on Sunday.

He ate little. Breakfast was "two small slices of brown bread, one slice of bacon and I'd say, one egg scrambled". There was no lunch.

"I had a banana and a protein bar on the course just to keep me going. I felt sick with nerves all day, even on the course."


He still proved he had the stomach for battle and making Pádraig Harrington's Ryder Cup team for Whistling Straits is the big goal now.

"I had a good chance to make the team a few years ago and I didn't and I was very jealous, envious of the guys playing, and I just want to experience it," he said.

"I'm ambitious and I don't want to miss out on it, I want to see what it's like and obviously next year, to play with Paddy as captain would be great as well."

Believing he'd be a tough opponent for anyone, he said: "The way my game is, I drive the ball all right and I chip quite well and if I hole a few putts I can be dangerous, any given week."

He didn't just win a Major, he won self-belief and the right to intimidate people with his name alone.

"I'm my own person and I do things the way I want to, and as long as I feel that's the right thing, I can turn up at an event and feel like I can beat anyone," he said.

"I went out there on Saturday and shot one of the best rounds of my life, probably under the most pressure I've ever felt in my whole life. Like I said, it can't help but give me confidence, and hopefully I can put myself in position."

It all came down to those two minutes on the first green.

"I said to myself, 'No matter what happens here I'm going to fight to the bitter end'," he said.

"I don't think I did that at Oakmont."

Irish Independent

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