Shane Lowry can kick on after second place at Valderrama
Sergio Garcia claimed his third title at the course on Monday due to a delayed finish
Shane Lowry takes a moment as he discoveres his ball close to the 15th green which led to a double bogey. Photo: Warren Little/Getty Images
A crazy, thunder-clapped few days in the south of Spain has brought new life to Shane Lowry’s year. A runner-up finish behind Sergio Garcia in the Valderrama Masters has invigorated the Offalyman’s season, his second place payday of €222,220 enabling him to leapfrog up the Race to Dubai order of merit standings to 43rd and also jump up the world rankings to a more palatable 70th.
What it all means is that Lowry – who is taking a few days off, primarily so that he can support his wife Wendy who is running in the Dublin marathon on Sunday in aid of Temple Street Children’s Hospital where she worked as a pediatric nurse – can raise the bar in terms of goal-setting of his own in the big-money run-in to the season.
Lowry was outside the automatic top-60 on the order of merit who make it to the DP World Tour Championship in Dubai next month prior to this season’s best finish in Valderrama, where a closing round 66 for eight-under-par 205 in the weather-hit tournament, reduced to 54 holes and dragged into a Monday finish, ensured he has guaranteed his place in the season finale in the desert.
In fact, Lowry heads into a run of four straight tournaments with the chance to turn around his season with the limited-field Turkish Airlines Open, the Nedbank Challenge and the DP World Tour Championship – and their huge pots of money and world ranking points – on his immediate itinerary, before he teams-up with Paul Dunne in the World Cup in Australia next month.
Lowry has come a long way since a dispiriting exit from the British Open at Carnoustie last July, where he missed the cut by one shot. He parted company with long-time caddie Dermot Byrne during that championship and fell to 92nd in the official world rankings, as he struggled with his form. Slipping outside the top-100 in the world was a genuine fear.
In the 13 weeks since then, Lowry – although losing his full PGA Tour card for the 2018/’19 wraparound season – has steadily moved back up the rankings on the back of improved form and a fresher outlook since resuming life on the European Tour. “I’m definitely going in the right direction,” he said. He believes the stretch of tournaments with his brother Alan on the bag (in Canada, Reno and the US PGA) was important in bringing a new focus back to his game.
With the experienced Brian Martin on his bag since they first teamed-up at the Portugal Masters, Lowry’s momentum – apart from the blip of a missed cut at the Dunhill Links, “it is what it is,” he said – has seen him make further strides forward.
“This (runner-up) finish changes things a lot. I was coming up to the next few weeks thinking about making sure I even made it to Dubai but now I’m up to 43rd in the Race to Dubai rankings and I think making a top-20 (on the order of merit) by the end of the season is an achievable goal. I’ve just got to keep doing what I am doing, go out and compete the next few weeks,” said Lowry.
On the restart of his weather-disrupted third and final round in Valderrama, Lowry started the day by holing a four-footer on the ninth and then reeled off three straight birdies: on the 10th, he hit a nine-iron to eight feet; on the 11th, he hit a three-iron short of the green and his eagle chip grazed the hole, leaving him a tap-in for birdie; and on the 12th he hit a five-iron to eight feet. Further birdie putts on the 13th and 14th grazed the hole.
As he stood on the Par 3 15th tee box, he had moved to within one stroke of Garcia. But his quest for the title perished there. “I had about a 20 minute wait (on the tee). I got flustered, put off by a cameraman, and I backed off. But he was putting me off again and I didn’t back off (a second time) and I hit a bad shot into the trees on the right. We found the ball but I had to go back to the tee.” Although he hit a three-iron tee-shot to six feet, he missed the putt and signed for a double-bogey five that took the wind from his sails.
By the time he got to the 18th, Lowry knew Garcia had a second straight Valderrama Masters title in his grasp and also knew a par would be sufficient to claim solo second. As it happened, Lowry’s nine-iron approach finished 25 feet from the pin and he rolled in the birdie putt to finish in style. “You know, I putted lovely, holed out lovely, and my short game is dynamite, it’s as good as it has been for a couple of years,” said Lowry, who has set a target of getting back into the world’s top-50 by year’s end which would also ensure a return to Augusta for the Masters next April.
The trip to Valderrama also proved a profitable one for Gavin Moynihan. Having missed the cut in all 12 previous events on the European Tour this season (his win with Paul Dunne in the GolfSixes was an “unofficial tournament”), the Dubliner’s tied-eighth place finish earned him a payday of €44,933 and provided a confidence boost heading into a return to Q-School next month.
Rory McIlroy, who hasn’t played since the Ryder Cup in Paris last month, resumes tournament action at the limited-field HSBC Champions tournament in Shanghai this week.
Collated final scores & totals in the European Tour Andalucia Valderrama Masters hosted by the Sergio Garcia Foundation, Real Club Valderrama, Sotogrande, Spain (Gbr & Irl unless stated, Irish in bold, par 71):
201 Sergio Garcia (Spa) 68 64 69
205 Shane Lowry 69 70 66
207 Mikko Korhonen (Fin) 69 71 67
208 Ashley Chesters 66 70 72
209 Maximilian Kieffer (Ger) 72 71 66, Gonzalo Fernandez-Castano (Spa) 70 68 71, Lee Westwood 71 68 70
210 Gavin Moynihan 73 71 66, Jason Norris (Aus) 69 71 70, Matthew Nixon 69 71 70
211 Richie Ramsay 69 74 68, Marc Warren 69 69 73, Joost Luiten (Ned) 73 71 67, Gregory Bourdy (Fra) 67 73 71, Oliver Fisher 71 69 71
212 Ricardo Gouveia (Por) 72 71 69, Thomas Aiken (Rsa) 74 72 66, Robert Rock 71 73 68, Alejandro Canizares (Spa) 71 72 69, Alvaro Quiros (Spa) 68 70 74, Paul Peterson (USA) 70 72 70
213 Jason Scrivener (Aus) 68 73 72, Andrew Johnston 73 70 70, Marcus Kinhult (Swe) 71 72 70, Lasse Jensen (Den) 71 72 70, David Lipsky (USA) 73 70 70, Oliver Farr 68 72 73, Edoardo Molinari (Ita) 70 73 70
214 Soren Kjeldsen (Den) 75 70 69, Anders Hansen (Den) 73 72 69, Callum Shinkwin 72 72 70, Richard McEvoy 72 71 71, Pep Angles (Spa) 71 74 69, Julien Guerrier (Fra) 75 70 69, Samuel Del Val (Spa) 72 74 68, Adrien Saddier (Fra) 71 71 72, David Drysdale 72 69 73, Stephen Gallacher 74 71 69, Jeunghun Wang (Kor) 71 71 72, Christiaan Bezuidenhout (Rsa) 77 68 69, Marcus Fraser (Aus) 71 75 68
215 Steven Brown 70 72 73, Richard Bland 70 73 72, Paul Waring 72 72 71, David Horsey 73 70 72, Andrew Dodt (Aus) 75 71 69, Matthew Baldwin 72 72 71, Jin-ho Choi (Kor) 72 73 70, Laurie Canter 71 72 72, Jeff Winther (Den) 74 72 69, Ryan Evans 72 69 74
216 Mikael Lundberg (Swe) 71 69 76, Wade Ormsby (Aus) 72 69 75, Gavin Green (Mal) 76 70 70, Bradley Dredge 74 71 71, Raphael Jacquelin (Fra) 70 70 76
217 Nacho Elvira (Spa) 69 75 73
218 Clement Sordet (Fra) 76 70 72, Christopher Mivis (Bel) 72 72 74, Matthew Southgate 71 74 73, Thongchai Jaidee (Tha) 75 71 72, Robert Karlsson (Swe) 71 75 72, Chase Koepka (USA) 72 74 72, Thomas Bjorn (Den) 73 71 74, Connor Syme 73 72 73
219 Scott Hend (Aus) 73 73 73, Frederik Dreier (Den) 74 71 74, Pádraig Harrington 72 74 73, Soomin Lee (Kor) 75 70 74
220 Jonathan Thomson 74 72 74
221 Eduardo Ger Lao Riva (Spa) 72 73 76, Darren Fichardt (Rsa) 69 75 77
222 Gary Stal (Fra) 73 73 76, Nino Bertasio (Ita) 70 73 79
223 Bernd Ritthammer (Ger) 71 75 77, Bradley Neil 73 72 78