Shane Lowry: Confidence high ahead of Alfred Dunhill Links

‘I love links golf and come here with an extra swagger after three top-10s in my last six starts’

 Former Ireland rugby captain Brian O’Driscoll talks with Shane Lowry  on the first hole during the final practice round prior to the 2014 Alfred Dunhill Links Championship at The Old Course  at St Andrews . Photograph:  David Cannon/Getty Images

Former Ireland rugby captain Brian O’Driscoll talks with Shane Lowry on the first hole during the final practice round prior to the 2014 Alfred Dunhill Links Championship at The Old Course at St Andrews . Photograph: David Cannon/Getty Images

 

I’ve made a promise to myself that at some stage this week I will walk up to have a look at the grave of Old Tom Morris. It is a place of homage for many visitors to St Andrews but I’m sorry to say that I’ve never quite managed to get around to it myself, even though I’ve been a regular player in the Alfred Dunhill Links since playing for the first time in 2009 and, of course, also playing in the British Open in 2010.

So, this week it is. Old Tom and his son, buried beside each other, at the Home of Golf. I’ll make that walk up the town. The main focus, though, is on competing in the Dunhill Links which is a unique tournament on the PGA European Tour – a pro-am on three different courses: Carnoustie, Kingsbarns and the Old Course – and I am here with a great deal of confidence. I could have won here last year, just as I could have won in the Wales Open a fortnight ago.

I left Wales with a bitter-sweet taste. Okay, second place is a good finish in its own right but I felt I played poorly on Sunday in the final round. When Joost (Luiten) hit that tee shot on 18, I couldn’t believe I had a chance to win. For me to get up and down for birdie on the last was a nice way to finish but I did walk away with a feeling similar to the BMW PGA at Wentworth earlier this season: the feeling that I should have won.

In Wales, I hit a couple of bad tee shots at the wrong time. I ended up in five fairway bunkers and four of them I could only chip out of. In the final round of a tournament when you’re trying to win, that’s not the thing to be doing.

Still, it was the third week in a row I had been in contention – following Switzerland and Holland – and, looking back, that’s three good weeks. My belief is that if you keep giving yourself chances to win, it will happen eventually.

The Talk

I’d a nice week off in Portugal last week and I have the hunger back for the weeks that lie ahead. The Dunhill Links this week, the Portugal Masters next week and then the World Matchplay after that. I’m looking forward to this run of tournaments.

Of course nearly all the talk in St Andrews when I got here on Tuesday – another early start, 6.30am flight out of Dublin – was about the Ryder Cup. Those who played or were there were all buzzing. I met some of the caddies. Met Rory McIlroy. Congratulated Paul McGinley, who did a great job. I don’t think I missed a shot when I was watching on television for the first two days but, to be honest, for me anyway, it is about moving on this week.

I got here on Tuesday and was impressed with my own time management. I played the first four holes and the last four holes at Carnoustie and then moved on to Kingsbarns and the played the back nine there. Yesterday, I got in a round on the Old Course with Gerry McManus, who is playing with me in the team pro-am, and we were joined by Ross Desmond and Brian O’Driscoll for a money game. Great fun and a good way to prepare.

BOD is a good player, off single figures. I actually played a round of golf with him about a month ago. He texted me a couple of weeks ago, said he was playing in the Dunhill and so it was great to arrange a round with him over the Old Course.

This is my sixth Dunhill Links and I have played with Gerry in every one of them bar one when we got split up. We weren’t too happy about that and have been together since. We actually could have won it last year.

The pro-am format can make it a tough week if you don’t know your amateur partner, so it is great to be with someone you get on with.

You’re out on the course for up to six hours and the other thing is making sure that you eat and drink enough. I generally take an extra sandwich, protein bar, tube of nuts and make sure to eat every half hour. That’s where Dermot (Byrne) comes in. If I’m going well, it is easy to forget to eat and he keeps on top of that.

Swilcan Bridge

There’s something about playing St Andrews that always gets you going. Kingsbarns and Carnoustie are two great links but there is no better place in the world as a golfer than to walk over the Swilcan Bridge and walk up the 18th. There is a different feeling to it. It is a good golf course but I don’t know how highly recommended it would be if it was in the middle of nowhere. The fact it is in the middle of town and is the Home of Golf, is where the special feeling comes from. You think of 17. Where else do you think it would be okay to hit your shot over a hotel? If someone designed that nowadays, people would think you were mad! That’s the way it is, and I love it.

I love links golf and I am coming in here with an extra swagger. I am playing with confidence. I look back on the start of the year and I was going out on a Tuesday hoping to find something to take with me into the tournament. I don’t feel I’m playing better than I was back in March but my confidence is there. I can go out and know if I get off to a bad start I can get it back. If I get a bogey, I can respond with two birdies. Or if I get off to a good start, that I can push on.

Confidence, that’s what it all comes down to, and I am playing with it. Three top-10s in my last six starts. This is a big tournament and I can feel the buzz of the players who were at the Ryder Cup. But this is a week for me – and a lot of us – to move on. All I know about the Ryder Cup is that come September 2016, I want to be in Hazeltine and not watching it on television.

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