Shane Lowry riding high again as juices flow at Irish Open

Several factors probably contributed to the Irishman’s best performance of the year

Shane Lowry showed his affection for the crowd at the Irish Open, and the feeling was entirely mutual. Photograph: Ben Brady/Inpho

On the approach to the 18th green, as Shane Lowry walked with intent and Darren Reynolds took his last strides of the final round with the heavy tour bag that makes every round seem like an excessive gym workout, the player and his bagman were left in little doubt of how the spectators adore this man.

The roars were loud, wild even. “Shane-o, Shane-o,” they rang out. The affection was clear and obvious; and when Lowry rolled in his three-footer for birdie, the 276th stroke of his latest Horizon Irish Open appearance, he responded to the acclaim by removing his cap and, arm raised, swishing it around time and time again in the heavy air. The feeling was entirely mutual.

Little did Lowry realise that his bid for glory had been much closer than he had realised.

Indeed, when he was on the fairway of the Par 5 16th hole, Lowry was close to the plaque placed in the ground after Rory McIlroy’s wonder three-wood en route to winning the Irish Open back in 2016.


“I was looking at Rory’s plaque thinking there might be another one there in a couple of days. I was going to go for it. But it was just such a risky shot, to be honest. I didn’t know where I stood in the tournament. I actually thought standing there I was too far behind. I thought I might be four behind and I was only two behind,” recalled Lowry, who opted to lay up and then saw his approach spin back, leaving him to two-putt for a par.

In the end, Lowry’s par-par-birdie finish over that famed stretch of golfing terrain saw him sign for a closing 68 for a total of 12-under-par 276, in tied-third, two shots behind the winner Vincent Norman of Sweden. Two strokes? That’s all. So close, and yet so far. In this case, the cliche appropriately summed it all up.

Lowry’s week had started with a wild-card selection from Europe’s captain Luke Donald for the Ryder Cup. Maybe a weight had lifted off his shoulders. Maybe the home crowd energised him. Maybe there was a myriad of factors. The upshot was that Lowry produced his best result of the year, his first top-five since the Honda Classic back in February.

The highlight of his final round was an eagle on the Par 5 fourth hole, where he hit a 4-iron approach to 12 inches. “The juices were flowing. I hit some great shots when I needed to today and that’s kind of what I am proud of,” said Lowry.

With hindsight, he’ll most likely rue Saturday’s third round – a 72 – that had left him standing still while most of those with sights on the grand prize had moved forward. As it turned out, he wasn’t that far away at all.

“I can take loads of positives. Obviously I started the week getting in the Ryder Cup team and I come in here and I play some of the best golf I’ve played all year. I’m very pleased with myself. One thing I’m really please with is my iron play which has been iffy over the last month or two. I felt like it was the best part of my game this week. I’m pretty happy with everything and I have a nice few weeks ahead of me,” said Lowry, who added €266,292 to his bank balance and improved his Race to Dubai order of merit ranking to 32nd.

“I feel like this season has been the season where I’ve not put all parts of my game together during tournament play. I’ve got some weeks where I’m driving the ball really well, other weeks I am putting well, other weeks my iron play is good. I just feel like it’s not all come together. It almost came together this week. I mean, I hit so many good putts the last few days. I know it’s kind of ifs and buts but I couldn’t do any more than I did over the last few days. I felt like I burned the edge an awful lot out there, gave myself a lot of chances. And you know, it just wasn’t to be.”

Still and all, a fine week’s work and great momentum to take on to the defence of his BMW PGA Championship and the Ryder Cup. Before that, of course, the little matter of a team-bonding reconnaissance trip to Marco Simone Golf Club in Rome. A flying visit, but one that means so much to Lowry. He’s playing well, and he’s part of the team.

Philip Reid

Philip Reid

Philip Reid is Golf Correspondent of The Irish Times