Out of Bounds: Lowry’s Claret Jug trumps McIlroy’s millions
McIlroy winner has enjoyed a fine year but Lowry’s British Open win sets him apart
Shane Lowry with caddie Bo Martin during the Turkish Airlines Open. Photograph: Jan Kruger/Getty
A question for you, and potentially a major one depending on how you view things: in a standout season for Rory McIlroy - who has walked away with wheelbarrows full of greenbacks in a year of four wins (so far!) - and also for Shane Lowry, with the Claret Jug his most prized possession, which of them is the real standout?
The number crunching from McIlroy throughout 2019 has been quite exceptional. Aside from the €13 million or thereabouts he pocketed for winning the FedEx Cup on the PGA Tour, his wins in The Players, the Canadian Open, the Tour Championship and the recent HSBC Champions have ensured an onwards and upwards graph that has moved him to world number two and nipping at the heels of Brooks Koepka for the top spot.
Add in the fact that McIlroy averaged 69.05 through the 2019 season on the PGA Tour to claim the Vardon Trophy, while also picking up the Nicklaus Trophy (voted on by his peers on the PGA Tour stateside) as Player of the Year and you have to admit that nobody played better than the Northern Irishman throughout the entire year. The official world rankings back it up, with McIlroy’s 480 points in 2019 better than the next best (Brooks Koepka) by all of 100 points.
Thing is, we expect these things from McIlroy, given his outrageous talent. Earlier this week, Lowry was asked what attribute he’d like from McIlroy’s armoury.
Obviously, Lowry pointed out it would be nice to be hitting second shots after driving the ball 340 yards into the middle of the fairway. But it was a mental trait rather than physical that Lowry chose to select: “The one thing that he’s got, (is) his carefree attitude and the way he plays the game. I know he obviously does care about it, just the way he goes about his business. I’d love to be able to have that week-in and week-out.”
Indeed, this was also the year when McIlroy passed $50 million in on-course career earnings on the PGA Tour, only the 10th player to do so.
And yet, and yet . . .! You could argue that Lowry, given where he started out the season, with no PGA Tour card and down at 75th in the world rankings when January 1st kicked off a new year, is the real standout performer.
For the first time in his career, Lowry is a multiple winner on tour in the same season, starting with the Abu Dhabi Championship and of course most memorably adding the 148th Open at Royal Portrush in elevating himself to the status of being a Major champion.
Lowry didn’t win as much money as McIlroy, nor did he come close to matching his pal’s accumulation of world ranking points.
But that Claret Jug, and the way it was won, and where it was won, is - irrespective of what happens in Dubai this week, where the Race to Dubai and its biggest cash prize in European Tour history is up for grabs with Lowry among those in the mix - the reason that makes him the stand-out.
It is also likely to ensure that Lowry will get the vote to be the European Tour’s Player of the Year, making it an Irish double on either side of the Atlantic. Some year, no matter what way you look at it.