Shane Lowry playing best golf of his career as he prepares to defend Portugal Masters title
The Offalyman’s third-place finish in the Dunhill Links a fortnight ago was his sixth top-10 finish of a season that seems to be gathering ever greater momentum heading into its final stretch
Shane Lowry during the final round of the Alfred Dunhill Links Championship where he finished third.
Every golfer needs an ego. It’s compulsory. So, when Shane Lowry – who defends his Portugal Masters title in the Algarve this week – comes out with a bold statement like “I’m playing probably the best golf I’ve ever played in my life at the minute”, you have to take him at his word. You really do.
After all, this is one of the most grounded and balanced players around. Take last Sunday, for instance. Lowry spent his day visiting his family and attended the Offaly hurling county final. If the evidence on the pitch didn’t exactly fill him with hope that the county team can retain their place as one of the game’s powerhouses any time soon, such time away from the golf course is as invaluable as all the hours put in on the practice range or the short game area. It is about getting a balance in life.
This week, Lowry heads to Portugal where he will defend a title for only the second time in his career. The first such occasion, of course, came in the Irish Open of 2010. The previous year, as an amateur, he’d won the tournament when it was played at Baltray and it was a performance that changed his life. He made a swift jump into the professional ranks and has settled like the proverbial duck would to water.
As Lowry has found, life on tour is all about meeting targets and chasing tournament wins. And, on his recent form, which has seen him move up to 70th in the latest world rankings, the Offalyman has been knocking ever louder on the door. His third-place finish in the Dunhill Links a fortnight ago (finishing a stroke outside of the play-off where David Howell beat off Peter Uihlein) was his sixth top-10 finish of a season that seems to be gathering ever greater momentum heading into its final stretch.
Lowry’s itinerary in the coming weeks and months provides proof of his well-being. The defence of his title in Portugal will be followed by appearances in the BMW Masters in Lake Malaren in China, followed by the Turkish Airlines Open and the European Tour’s finale, the DP World championship in Dubai. After that, there is an inaugural appearance in the World Cup – in Royal Melbourne – where he is part of a two-man Irish entry that also includes Graeme McDowell.
There could yet be another tournament added to schedule. Lowry isn’t – as yet – qualified to play in the HSBC Champions tournament in Shanghai, the second of four events in the European Tour’s new “Final Series” but a win in either Portugal or Lake Malaren or good finishes that move him into the world’s top 50 would earn a ticket to that event too.
For now, Lowry is focused on his defence in Portugal where the number of Irish holidaymakers attending the tournament will provide extra support, just as it did a year ago.
“I love the whole atmosphere around the place and I love the course,” conceded Lowry, who heads there with the intent of winning.
As he puts it, “I feel any tournament I am playing in, I am there to win. It is hard to think like that, because you end up putting too much pressure on yourself. But I have been playing so well recently I am in danger of going into a tournament thinking like that. It’s not a bad thing either. I think I am mature enough and experienced enough to know what frame of mind I want to get into on a Thursday, Friday, Saturday or Sunday.
“When I play (on the European Tour), all year, every time I’ve played I’ve felt I could be leading or have a chance to win and I have frustrated myself a lot thinking like that. But I think it is a good thing I am thinking like that. It is not about going to tournaments trying to make cuts or to finish as far up the leaderboard as you can. The buzz of contending or (being) within a few shots is what I love and I look for every week.
“This is where it all kicked off last year. I’ve got five tournaments, hopefully six, left. If you can sort of play well for couple of months, it turns an average year into a great year. I think probably every golf course we are going to play in the next five to six tournaments suit me, so there is no reason I can’t do well.
“If you give yourself enough chances to win, eventually you win one or two or reverse into a win or something. It is all about giving yourself the chances. I feel like I have been giving myself those chances. It is hard not to get impatient but you just have to try to keep playing well . . . you’ve got to keep putting yourself in position and knock one on the head. Hopefully I can knock one on the head before the end of the year.”