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Dublin: 19 °C Sunday 24 June, 2018

'There are a lot of geniuses out there private messaging me telling me what I should do'

Shane Lowry is still searching for the spark to ignite his season, but is in a good place ahead of this week’s Irish Open.

THERE’S SOMETHING CAPTIVATING about watching Shane Lowry tee it up and crack half a dozen drives down the first fairway at St Anne’s Golf Club. Each one as straight as the next, the timing absolutely perfect and his swing in perfect harmony. It’s sublime clockwork.

Shane Lowry Shane Lowry was in Dublin yesterday ahead of the Irish Open at Portstewart. Source: Morgan Treacy/INPHO

Lowry could stand there all day and ping them down the middle without even thinking about it, the thunderous crack off the face of his driver giving some sort of indication as to how well he’s striking the ball.

And that’s the thing: Lowry’s game appears to be in good order. His iron play is as sweet as ever and having gone ‘back to basics’ with the putter, the 30-year-old has found his touch on the greens again. He knows it himself, his form is good.

However, all of that hasn’t translated into results and certainly a cursory glance at his report card from this season would suggest something entirely different; inconsistency and frustration has been the story of the year for the Clara native.

Last week’s missed cut at the French Open, following rounds of 74 and 77, was his fourth on both sides of the Atlantic in 2017, but there has also been a brief brush with glory at Wentworth and the Memorial tournament as well as two other top 20 finishes. It has been the ultimate mixed bag.

“I suppose I was very optimistic going into last week,” Lowry said yesterday. “To be honest I felt like I was going in the right direction. That is just a minor speed bump.

“I felt like I’ve played quite good over the past few months and since Augusta I’ve felt like my game turned around a little bit. I’m still fairly happy where my game is, I went out late Saturday and Sunday evening and played a few holes up in the Castle and my game is still quite good.

“I’m hitting the ball well and everything feels quite comfortable. Any interviews that I did last week, I did say that I felt I was going to have a good summer, and I still feel that way. I definitely don’t feel any different.”

The bottom line though is that Lowry’s last victory, sensational as it was, came at the WGC Bridgestone in August 2015 and this sporadic run of form over the last 18 months has seen him slip from 25th to 73rd in the world rankings.

Statistics will, of course, only tell you half the story and Lowry knows better than anyone where he’s at and how it’s coming out. He just needs a spark — one shot, one round, one week or one piece of good fortune — to ignite his season, and that’s all he puts it down to.

He’s never been one to complicate matters but golf, as we all know, is a game of competence and confidence and when the latter is missing it doesn’t matter how well you’re striking the ball in practice or on the range. Mentally you have to be right.

Lowry has been working with sports psychologist Gerry Hussey since finishing second behind Dustin Johnson at the US Open in 2016, a missed opportunity and disappointment which had haunted him in the months after.

Shane Lowry Lowry at St Anne's Golf Club. Source: Morgan Treacy/INPHO

A corner has been turned in that regard and Lowry would prefer to leave the past in the past and move on.

“My patience levels are very good, mentally I’m very good on the course at the minute,” he says.

“The last three months I feel have been a lot better, so there’s no point talking about the nine months previous because then I’m just going to get myself in a bad frame of mind again.

“The last few months have been good, I had a good chance to win at Wentworth, I was doing quite well in Memorial for a while and had a decent US Open. I did okay I wouldn’t be giving myself top marks for it but I did okay. Anytime I’m playing weekends at Majors you’re giving yourself chances. I just have to be patient for it to happen.

“You just have to wait for your time and not force it. That’s the thing with golf. I’ve got a lot more tournaments left this year. If I win next week, and if I play not great for the rest of the year, would I be happy? Probably not. It’s just a strange game where you’re never happy. You’re never happy no matter what you’re doing.

“I’ve kind of accepted that I’m not going to be happy probably for the next 20 years until I’m finished playing.”

Lowry is asked why that is.

He adds: “You’re never happy with golf. Unless you win every week, you’re probably not going to be happy. You’d be happy enough if you have a top five finish, or you reverse into a top 10. If you shoot a good score on the Sunday, you’re probably happy leaving a tournament, but you’re always thinking you could have done better unless you win the tournament. That’s just the way it is.

“I think golfers in general are like that. I am, anyway. If someone said to me now ‘I’ll give you second this week’, you’d find it hard not to take it. But if you stand on the 18th green
next Sunday after finishing second, you’d probably be the most disappointed man in Ireland after finishing second. It’s just a funny game. You just have to ride out the bad times and enjoy the successes and the wins when you can.”

He’s long overdue in that department and how Lowry would dearly love for it all to fall into place and his game to click this week at the Dubai Duty Free Irish Open in Portstewart.

It’s a course he’s never played before but home conditions on the Northern Irish links will, he hopes, work in his favour against a field stacked with quality, including five of the world’s top 20.

Shane Lowry plays his way out of a bunker on the fourth hole Lowry is excited to return to the Irish Open this week. Source: Donall Farmer/INPHO

Lowry has made no secret of his desire to come back to the tournament he enjoyed that sensational breakthrough victory at eight years ago and claim a second title, this time as a professional, although he’s fully aware of how much of an ask that’s going to be.

“I think I am playing good enough to win,” he continues.

“But golf is funny. You might play good enough to win but someone plays better than you. You might not play good enough to win but someone could make a balls of the last few holes and you end up reversing into a win but most of the time you have to play good enough to win.

“There is always going to be someone who’ll hit form. You look at how hard a golf course is and there is always someone who will shoot five under on any given day. I will just go up there and give it my best. That is the way I am looking at it nowadays.

“I give it my best and if that is not good enough, sure what can I do? Sure France last week, I felt good, practised well and didn’t get my own way on the golf course and I ended up going home on the Friday evening. But it is not the end of the world because we have the Irish Open to look forward to this week. That is how I look at things now.”

That attitude, and shift in perspective, has stemmed from changes in his life off the course — marriage and the birth of his daughter, Iris — but also because of his work with Hussey.

“I think so, a little bit, like I don’t get as down on myself as I used to. But I still need to. I need to have that self-reflection in order to do well. In this game, you might have a three putt and then you bring that to the next tee and you could drive the ball badly off it, even though you have driven well all day. And that’s golf. We have all been there but we could come out the far side.”

Lowry travels up to Portstewart today for the start of what is always a busy week for the Irish players with additional appearances at corporate events and press conferences to fulfil. There are always plenty of distractions and oftentimes it’s a relief when the golf eventually rolls around on Thursday.

For that reason, Lowry admits he hasn’t been at the races at the Irish Open since that memorable week in the County Louth rain in 2008.

“Not great, I suppose,” he says, reflecting on his performances over the last number of years.

“I had a good chance in Carton House. The rest of the years it’s been a bit iffy. I think I finished about 20th last year. I got a real bad side of the draw last year which didn’t help me but the Irish Open’s the Irish Open and I’d love to go there and compete this week.

“Would I be putting too much pressure on myself? I don’t think so. To be honest I think I’m in a great place at the minute, both on and off the golf course but there always is (pressure), it’s the Irish Open.

Dermot Byrne and Shane Lowry Lowry with caddie Dermot Byrne at the K Club last year. Source: James Crombie/INPHO

“Going up to Portstewart there’s not as much as at the K Club probably; be less people and they’ll be out watching Rory [McIlroy], Darren [Clarke] and Graeme [McDowell].

“I feel I can go up there, do my own thing, come in under the radar a little bit. Try and sneak in there and do alright. Maybe a few years ago I’d be put out by things like that but now I know it’s part of the job and it’s what you have to do.”

Lowry has been on the circuit long enough to appreciate all of that and acknowledge it is just par for the course. He was in Dublin yesterday to announce a new commercial partnership with Immedis and will speak at a Bank of Ireland event up North tomorrow.

It’s all part of the modern game, as is social media.

As his form has peaked and troughed, a certain following have taken it upon themselves to let Lowry know how they feel about his game and what he should and shouldn’t be doing on and off the course.

He normally doesn’t let any of that external noise get to him but it has got to such a point where he has considered deleting his Twitter account.

“I get plenty of advice on social media,” he explains. “I have contemplated it [deleting Twitter] over the last few months.

“There are a lot of geniuses out there who tell you what you should and shouldn’t be doing. Even in the last week I have had private messages on Twitter telling me what I should do, people telling me I should work harder.

“I mean who has a camera on me, I have been in the golf club until dark the last two nights. Who, apart from my family, friends, coach has the right to tell me what to do? People do that. That is the era we live in. I laugh it off. It definitely does not bother me.”

Asked if he would consider scaling back his personal interaction on social media and instead use it purely for professional and sponsorship reasons, Lowry said:

“No, I think that’s boring. There are genuine people that follow you and want to know you and what you are like.

“And like sitting back watching a match and tweeting about it and having a bit of laugh. To be honest, that’s what I use Twitter for when I am away; to get GAA results and football results and stuff.”

With the Irish Open now part of the lucrative Rolex Series on the European Tour, with a prize fund of €6 million, this week is the start of a big summer for Lowry.

He’ll go to the Open at Royal Birkdale and then return to the PGA Tour for a first trip to Canada later this month.

“The Irish Open is the Irish Open and it’s the one you want to win,” Lowry adds.

“I’ve been lucky enough to win it as an amateur but I’d love to win it again as a pro. To be able to put another trophy beside the one I won in 2009 would be great.

“There’s a lot at stake. There’s huge world ranking points, the Race to Dubai too so it’s a massive tournament. It’s a fairly big week but if there was no world ranking points and the tournament was only for a €1 million it will still be a big week for me.”

No better time to rediscover that spark and silence the ‘geniuses.’

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