Donald Trump's helicopter was parked in its spot by the 18th, a giant US flag in all its glory flying atop a nearby pole. Seemingly oblivious to such trappings, Shane Lowry, Graeme McDowell and English player Tommy Fleetwood worked their way from the practice putting green to the first hole on the Blue Monster and, in turn, hit tee shots towards the pristine fairway. Another practice day on another tour stop.
All were relaxed, but one – Lowry – had a smile that seemed etched into his face and the reason was a man not in the WGC-Cadillac Championship field. Pádraig Harrington’s win in the Honda Classic particularly resonated with Lowry, who had watched up-close as the Dubliner struggled with his game as recently as the Pebble Beach pro-am.
But Lowry knew a little switch was ready to be flicked. He just didn’t know it would happen so quickly, or so dramatically. The upshot is that he has another Irishman to hang out with for next month’s Masters; and some of Harrington’s feel good factor to take into this no-cut €8.3 million tournament.
Harrington’s latest tour win wasn’t sufficient for him to gatecrash his way into this elite field for the WGC at Trump National Doral but, for Lowry, who watched the drama unfold in his Miami hotel having made the road trip down from West Palm Beach where he was practising, it will serve as further inspiration to go with the tips he has picked up from Harrington through the years.
“It is career-changing for him, fantastic,” said Lowry of Harrington’s latest win. “Pádraig’s been great for me. I mean, just hanging out with him . . . it’s one of the best stories in quite a while. I played with him in Pebble Beach [last month] and he wasn’t playing that great. He was driving it pretty poorly. To go and win on a golf course as tough as that really shows some character. Sure that’s Pádraig, isn’t it?”
Lowry had met up with Harrington for dinner on Sunday night but the subject of the “W” word – as in winning – never came up. On the following day’s drive down to Miami, Lowry’s mobile started humming with text messages of Harrington’s birdie blitz. He and his caddie
made it to the hotel in time to watch Harrington’s closing three holes and the play-off. Lowry was one of the least surprised that Harrington pulled out the goods.
As Lowry remarked, “people at home would be asking you about Pádraig. ‘Is he gone?’ ‘What’s the story with him?’ As I told them, it wouldn’t surprise you if he does anything. It’s like the way I was at this time last year, struggling to play on Thursdays and Fridays, and then when you get through to the weekend you feel you can do anything. When he got through there and was up at the top of the leaderboard contending, it almost was easier to play.”