‘Hopefully I’m only giving it back for a few days’ - Shane Lowry keen to keep Claret Jug

Defending champion delighted that his Open Championship defence will be in front of crowds

 Shane Lowry is hoping to only have to hand back the Claret Jug for a couple of days after holding it for almost two years. Photograph:  Andy Buchanan/AFP via Getty Images

Shane Lowry is hoping to only have to hand back the Claret Jug for a couple of days after holding it for almost two years. Photograph: Andy Buchanan/AFP via Getty Images

 

At least Shane Lowry won’t have to listen to the sound of silence when he eventually gets to defend the famed Claret Jug at the 149th Open Championship at Royal St George’s on the Kent coast in England come July, with the R&A aiming for potentially 75 per cent attendance – which would equate to a daily crowd of 30,000 – when the event is staged.

For the 34-year-old Offalyman, keeping possession of the trophy for an extra year wasn’t any great hardship at all (even if it did require one visit to the silversmith for repair after enjoying a fine old time of it post his win at Royal Portrush back in the summer of 2019), and it is definitely a case of better late than never in finally getting to return the Claret Jug. “Hopefully I’m only giving it back for a few days,” he quipped.

“When I heard the news first [of the postponement], I was very disappointed obviously, kind of selfishly for my own self. But I didn’t pack it away in July last year and sort of say, ‘that’s my year over’. . . I’m going to prefer going back defending my title with crowds as opposed to being there last July with no crowds. You know, I was disappointed at the start, but obviously I’m going to get the upside of defending in front of a few people this year.”

And, for sure, his form has improved as that defence edges ever closer. Lowry’s tied-fourth finish in the US PGA Championship at Kiawah Island last week – where he led the field in driving (strokes gained off the tee) and was fifth in approach play, with only his putting letting him down (where he ranked 59th) – has primed him for a busy summer schedule with one big tournament after another rolling in week by week.

Lowry returns to competition at next week’s Memorial tournament with the US Open at Torrey Pines a fortnight later and will then return to Europe for the Irish Open at Mount Juliet and, then, that defence of the Claret Jug at Sandwich.

“I just love Major championships. I just love big weeks. I love the atmosphere. To be honest, last year when we played the PGA and the US Open and the Masters with no crowds I felt like I struggled. I felt like it was just hard to kind of get yourself to that level where the intensity that you really wanted to be at.

“So it was nice to have that back at the Masters somewhat this year, and then the PGA last week was really, really cool to have the crowds back. And even just seeing the scenes of Phil [Mickelson] walking up 18, it’s great to have that back in sport.

“I’m 34 now. I feel like I’m maturing as a golfer, as a person. So I feel like when I get to those big weeks I kind of know what’s going to happen. You’re going to have ups and downs. You’re going to have difficult times on the course and you’re going to have good runs, and when you’re having good runs you need to take advantage of that.

“I did that last week, and to be honest, like I’m delighted I had a top-5 finish, a great week, but I was quite disappointed leaving the golf course on Sunday because I feel like that is a tournament that I could have won.”

Shane Lowry enjoyed having the crowds back at the US PGA Championship at Kiawah Island and welcomes the return of spectators at this year’s Open Championship at Royal St George’s. Photograph: Stacy Revere/Getty Images
Shane Lowry enjoyed having the crowds back at the US PGA Championship at Kiawah Island and welcomes the return of spectators at this year’s Open Championship at Royal St George’s. Photograph: Stacy Revere/Getty Images

While Lowry is a confirmed home bird and recently has gone on board as a backer of Offaly GAA, he acknowledged the decision to buy a house in Florida has helped his game this season.

“Being able to practice and play over here in these conditions helps me play on the PGA Tour and the big events over here, so I would say just spending time over here, spending time in this climate, spending time playing on the PGA Tour over the last number of years, my game has matured.

“I’ve matured as a person, and I feel like probably 90 per cent of my game is quite consistent at the minute. I’m just kind of struggling to find consistency with my putting. I really feel like if I do that, I can go ahead and win big tournaments again.

“But it’s all about putting yourself there, and I put myself there last weekend, and it was really exciting. It was just exciting to be up there on the weekend of a Major championship again. The buzz I get from that is the reason I get up every morning, it’s the reason I go out and practice, and hopefully I can keep doing that and give myself a couple of chances over the next few years to maybe knock off another [Major].”

On the return of crowds to the championship at Royal St George’s, Martin Slumbers, the chief executive of the R&A, said they were working with British government officials on various options with multiple plans in place before knowing exactly how many spectators will be allowed. One plan is for 75 percent, but 50 per cent and 25 per cent options are also in the contingency planning.

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