Shane Lowry enjoying the familiar feel of Kiawah Island’s Ocean Course
Irish star has brought coach Neil Manchip with him to South Carolina for US PGA bid
Shane Lowry and Dustin Johnson share a laugh during a practice round on Monday at Kiawah Island ahead of this week’s US PGA Championships. Photograph: Stacy Revere/Getty Images
A different world perhaps for Shane Lowry, but – lurking inside – that same old feeling. For starters, there’s the salty sea spray of the Atlantic coming in over the dunes; and the omnipresence of the wind, one which will prove challenging for club selection. Sound familiar?
Although Portrush, where he lifted the Claret Jug in 2019, is some 3,769 miles on the other side of the ocean, Shane Lowry’s quest to increase his Majors haul from one to two will come in familiar conditions at this week’s US PGA Championship at Kiawah Island, South Carolina, with the player carrying a belief that the challenge on the Pete Dye-designed seaside course is one made for him.
“It’s another chance,” observed Lowry. “There’s four weeks of the year you kind of realise it’s a chance of doing something great, and stamping your name in history. I’ve always said golf is a funny game, where you’re only one week away from greatness.”
Lowry flew up to Kiawah Island from his home in Florida on Sunday, with his coach Neil Manchip – who arrived in from Ireland last week – also on the flight for what will be the player’s 10th appearance in the PGA Championship which offers the Wanamaker Trophy (and a cheque for $1.9million) to whoever prevails in this latest edition of a championship first played in 1916.
For Lowry, there is nothing like a Major week. “I love big weeks, I just love the competition. I love competing at the highest level so that is what I’m looking forward to most . . . I’ve managed to win one of the things, I’ve got a Major in my bag. Obviously I’d like to add to my collection. I don’t know if that brings more pressure or less, I’m not sure . . . I’d put it in the same bracket of the other Majors, I’d be very happy to add it to my list.
“It feels like the Masters was only a couple of weeks ago and here we are, the PGA Championship is this week and before you know it we will be teeing up in the US Open and then The Open will be right upon us. You are kind of preparing for this week but then you are preparing for all these weeks hoping that it is a good time of the year to get yourself into good form.”
Lowry’s form this season has been trending in the right direction and, if you’re looking for coincidences, then the Dye factor comes into play. His two best results so far this year – eighth at The Players, ninth at the RBC Heritage – came at Dye-designed courses, Sawgrass and Hilton Head, and the world number 48 has welcomed the arrival of Manchip for this latest examination.
“Neil’s another pair of eyes really. I don’t feel like I have chipped as well the last week or two and I was out there on my own trying to figure it out. Then [Manchip flew in] and we’re out there doing something and he just says one little thing that triggers something in my head that makes it work better.
“There’s just little things, when it comes down to Wednesday afternoon or Thursday morning when I’m getting ready to play or getting a bit anxious and he’s there and we can have a chat. I always feel like he gets me in a good place to play golf and that’s why he is quite influential on me. I feel like when Neil’s out [at tournaments] I automatically become more comfortable.”
The Ocean Course is the longest in championship history – at 7,876 yards – but that’s not the only piece of history being made this week, as the PGA of America has, for the first time, allowed players and caddies to use range finders during tournament play. Lowry is unsure if he will be one of them. “When it comes to golf, I am actually quite a traditionalist. I just like golf the way it is, I don’t like seeing many changes,” he admitted.
Beneath it all, there is a confidence that he can perform. He is a man comfortable in his own body and mind.
“I’m swinging the club well. I have been working away on my putting and chipping and I feel that’s come together nicely. There’s a couple of blind shots that you just have to get comfortable with.
“I am trying to get comfortable with how I am hitting the ball and what I am doing out there, allowing myself to play my best golf. You need to get comfortable to allow yourself to make mistakes, allowing yourself to make bogeys and allowing yourself to hit bad shots. And I think when you get comfortable doing that, that’s when it leads to your best golf.”