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Dublin: 11°C Friday 16 April 2021

In the Swing: Lowry reaps reward of shrewd Austrian move

Last weekend’s second-place finish shows that Shane Lowry has got his schedule spot on, writes Neil Cullen in this week’s column.

Image: Mike Egerton/EMPICS Sport

A JOINT RUNNER-UP finish from Shane Lowry at the Lyoness Open in Austria was exactly what the Offaly man needed.

The Lyoness Open may not be one of the marquee events on tour, and the field didn’t exactly contain a host of household names, but the near €87,000 Lowry earned by finishing alongside Thomas Levet is a big boost for him and projects him to just outside the top 60 in the Race to Dubai.

Events that take place the week after a Major Championship are rarely going to attract the big names, but they represent excellent opportunities for those competing to register good finishes, just as Lowry did.

This is a strange point of the season for players who are not going to be contending at Majors. Naturally, as is every golfer’s dream, players want to play in Major Championships and those who don’t qualify automatically often try their hand at regional and local qualifying events.

Those routes, however, are often very narrow and difficult to navigate with few spots on offer at each. Even if a player does qualify, making the cut and finishing in the money can be yet another uphill battle and the lengths that players go to qualify are often not rewarded if they end up missing the cut.

That is why it is even more essential for players like Shane Lowry that they perform well in the events which lend themselves to high finishes for mid-ranked players. That’s not to say that such players can’t win big events, but it’s always going to be an easier prospect when you take guys like Luke Donald, Lee Westwood Martin Kaymer et al. out of the field.

Lowry’s European Tour exemption for having won the Irish Open at Baltray was a welcome comfort for him for two years on Tour, but as that runs out, keeping his card is absolutely essential and it is promising to see him perform well in these bread and butter events to keep himself in touch for the Race to Dubai finale.

Such is the density of the schedule at this time of the year that we are already looking at the calendar’s next WGC event next week at the Bridgestone Invitational and that is followed swiftly by the PGA Championship from Kiawah Island in South Carolina.

The Bridgestone Invitational has been dominated by Tiger Woods over the years – a tournament that he has won seven times, no less. Last year we had the intrigue of Adam Scott taking home the title with his new caddie Steve Williams and Williams’ comments after the round that were targeted at Tiger Woods.

It’s obviously a happy hunting ground for Scott, so it will be very interesting to monitor how he responds from his recent setback at the final day of the British Open. There is no time like the present for Scott to jump back on the horse and content again, but with the quality of the field in these tournaments he won’t have it easy.

One thing that might work to his advantage is that there is no half-way cut in WGC events. Even if things don’t go his way early on, he will be forced to persevere and forced to concentrate and work on his golf game and his mental state on the course, and I’m sure that if he gets off to a slow start he will be much better served having to grind it out over four days than over two.

It’s tough to try and call a winner from such a high-quality field. Obviously Tiger Woods is the stand out favourite given his record at the event, but Rory McIlroy has registered two top-10s at the event in the last two years and it would be no surprise to see him feature again.

As he tweeted earlier in the week, this is the start of a 10 week stint in the USA that will take him all the way to the Ryder Cup. With the USPGA Championships and the Fed-Ex Cup playoffs to take place between now and then it’s going to be a pretty intense 10 weeks.

It is a schedule that many of the Europeans will have pencilled in, or certainly something similar, and what better way to kick it off than with a win at the WGC Bridgestone Invitational.

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