Carton House pro Shane Lowry is ready to give Irish Open his best shot

Popular Offalyman knows he’s going to be in big demand but is ready to make himself available to fans

For Shane Lowry, these weeks are few and far between. Unique, even! After all, when can a player roll out of bed, walk out the front door and down to the course which plays host to the Irish Open? Such is the case for the 26-year-old Offlayman during this week's stop on the PGA European Tour which, quite literally, takes place on his doorstep.

If there is any sense that playing your national championship on a course where you are the attached touring professional carries any extra pressure, there is no sign of it. Lowry, relaxed and on the back of a decent final round in Munich on Sunday which confirmed his golfing well-being, is intent on going with the flow in the coming days. “I will give everyone what they want. After all, it is just one week a year. But when I get inside the ropes on Thursday, that will be my peace and quiet for the week,” he said.

It’s an indication of Lowry’s improved status on tour that he could familiarise himself even more with a course he knows like the back of his hand. Many of his peers were yesterday fighting it out in Sunningdale in 36-hole international qualifying for next month’s British Open at Muirfield. Lowry, though, could escape such a qualifying minefield. He’d already booked his place through finishing in the top 30 of last year’s Race to Dubai moneylist.

Of this week's demands, Lowry – who won the Irish Open in 2009 as an amateur at Baltray, a career-changing moment that saw him turn professional within a month – said: "There are going to be big crowds and I am going to be in demand. But that's a good thing. I could be at the bottom of the pile or not even playing. So, I am going to spend time with anyone who comes up to seem me and stay and sign (autographs) and talk to people as long as I can."  

Knowledgeable crowds
Lowry's philosophy is in tune with the traditional approach of Irish Opens, where large and knowledgeable crowds have made it one of the most popular tour stops. But he also knows that it is up to the home players to deliver.

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On the back of the grandstand by the first tee is a giant banner which reads, "Will Irish eyes be smiling?" It has photos of Paul McGinley, Graeme McDowell, Rory McIlroy, Pádraig Harrington, Darren Clarke and himself. As one of the poster boys, Lowry is able and willing to talk the talk. "I think it is important that one of us is certainly contending at the weekend to be honest," admitted Lowry, adding: "That's the same as every Irish Open . . . if [an Irish player) has a chance going out on Saturday and Sunday, the crowds will come out in droves at the weekend. That's crucial this week. We definitely need an Irish player up there contending. I know for a fact that if I had a chance of winning we would definitely get a few more thousand from home. I will give it my best shot."


Plenty of incentive
Lowry has plenty of incentive, not least playing on what is effectively now his home course, but the evidence of last Sunday's final round in Munich – when he shot a closing round 65 – is that his game is in good shape. "It's coming along. Last week, it was close to being really, really good . . . very stress free. It gives me a lot of confidence going into this week . . . I got out of it all I wanted to get out of it."

The field for the €2 million event was completed yesterday with the addition of US-based Kerryman Mark Murphy as the final recipient of a sponsor's invite. Murphy joins Alan Dunbar, Gareth Shaw, Rhys Pugh, Séamus Power, Sweden's Peter Hedblom, American Tyler McCumber and Damien McGrane as invitees.

Philip Reid

Philip Reid

Philip Reid is Golf Correspondent of The Irish Times