Shane Lowry focused on driver troubles as he heads for Sun City
Nedbank Challenge next up for the Irishman who is targeting a top 30 order of merit spot
Shane Lowry chats with his caddie during the Turkish Airlines Open at the Regnum Carya Golf & Spa Resort. Lowry finished in a tie for 15th place. Photo by Warren Little/Getty Images)
A heavy end-of-season itinerary of globe-trotting and crisscrossing of timelines for Shane Lowry could yet yield the desired rewards, even if his top-15 finish in Turkey – which started a four-week stretch of tournaments – only saw him move up one place, to 40th, in the European Tour order of merit.
With his mind set on making it into the top 30 places by season’s end which would earn him an exemption into next year’s British Open, Lowry moved on to this week’s Nedbank Challenge in Sun City aware that one area of his game required most of his attention: driving!
“I came away from Valderrama thinking I am playing great [after finishing runner-up to Sergio Garcia]. When you do well around that place, you think it’s easy. ‘I am driving it well’ and this, that and the other.
“But for some reason my driving just wasn’t comfortable [in Turkey]. I found a way to get it around the golf course . . . I’ll have to sort out my driving over the next three days if I am going to do well around there,” admitted Lowry of the Gary Player-designed course which has a premium on driving.
Lowry is certainly familiar with the course, where altitude is another factor, having played there on three previous occasions with finishes of 11th-tied-25th-tied-12th to provide some evidence that, if he sorts out his driving, then he can challenge for the title.
This run of limited-field tournaments – with big purses and lots of world ranking points – offers Lowry and, indeed, Paul Dunne, who is playing the same schedule which takes in the Nedbank, followed by next week’s DP World Tour Championship and then the World Cup in Australia, the opportunity to turn decent seasons into great seasons.
Lowry and Dunne are joined in the Nedbank field by Pádraig Harrington, who is playing on a sponsor’s invitation, and Rory McIlroy. Harrington narrowly missed out on earning a spot in the field by right (he was second reserve), but took up the offer of a sponsor’s invitation rather than make the transatlantic trip to Mexico for the Mayakoba championship on the PGA Tour.
The implication for Harrington of not making the Nedbank field under his own steam is that any prize money he wins this week won’t count towards the Race to Dubai standings, so he won’t make it into the season-ending Tour Championship. Lowry, Dunne and McIlroy will all be in that field.
McIlroy has an outside chance of going to Dubai with a chance of topping the order of merit. Mathematically it is feasible, but it would require the Northern Irishman to win in Sun City and also to win in Dubai.
Justin Rose, though, has decided not to add Dubai onto his schedule. The Englishman – who successfully defended his Turkish Airlines Open title to return to the world number one spot – has accepted that there is little or no chance of catching order of merit leader Francesco Molinari and instead will close out his season by defending his title in Indonesia and then playing in the Tiger Woods-hosted Hero Challenge.
Of a consistency that has seen him finish top-10 in 24 of his last 31 tournaments, Rose said he would use the off-season to improve further.
“The fun thing is I still feel like there’s improvement to be had and that’s what I’m looking for. I don’t know if I’m a bit, you know, whatever in the head but I’m really looking forward to the off-season to still work at a few things and still get better. I think that’s the exciting part, at 38, I still feel like there is improvement to be achieved.”