Shane Lowry happy to focus on golf as he mounts Open defence

Open champion in decent form and hoping to be back in the Major mix again on Sunday

For pretty much the past two years, the old Claret Jug has been a part of Shane Lowry's family.

Yesterday, it escaped the bubble the Champion Golfer of the Year 2019 has formed – comprising his wife Wendy, coach Neil Manchip and player manager Brian Moran – in their rented house on the Kent coast ahead of this 149th Open at Royal St George's, as the famous trophy was returned to the R&A.

Who knows? Perhaps he’ll be accepting it again come Sunday’s conclusion. That’s the intention anyway.

And, indeed, Lowry – who has shown good form in recent months without winning – is of the opinion that entering the bubble is no bad thing as it frees him of other requirements through this week and will allow him to focus solely on the task at hand, his defence of a title he won so brilliantly at Royal Portrush two years ago.

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“It’s a bubble, but I don’t think I’ll be doing anything different than I normally do. I come to the golf course, I play, and I go home. We have dinner in the house and that’s it, that’s all you do.

“Kind of watch a bit of TV and have some food in the evenings. You don’t do anything else the week of big tournaments, you’re resting up as much as you can . . . . I reckon if it was a normal Open and I was defending I might have a couple more things to do, so it probably is working in my favour a little bit as regards my performance,” said Lowry.

A sign of how much the weather can impact on links golf was that Lowry’s first look at the Sandwich links involved a walk of the course rather than his original plan to play all 18 holes.

Lowry, in fact, walked the front nine and then, when the weather improved, played 12 holes – the first, second, ninth and the back nine – on soft terrain that is expected to firm up later in the week as hotter, drier weather (with wind) takes hold.

“It’s difficult to get a feeling for what it could actually play like today because everything that I’ve heard over the years is that St George’s, you can hit decent shots and then get bounces on to the fairway and get kicked into the rough. I didn’t see any of that,” said Lowry, who at least had the benefit of reacquainting himself with links golf in his off-week from tournament play at home last week.

Good results

Of getting used to links terrain again at his own pace, he remarked: “It was nice to get away with my friends and just go out there and play some links golf and get some good prep for this week, because it does take a little while to get used to playing links golf. I think I kind of underestimated that [in the past].

“I remember my first full season on the PGA Tour, I came back and went to play the Scottish Open and struggled to get my head around hitting a 7-iron 150 yards as opposed to hitting it 180 or 190 over in the States. It does take a little bit of getting used to, but I feel like I’m there and I feel like I’m ready to kind of attack the week.”

Lowry’s form has been decent in the United States, four top-10s in 10 tournaments since the Heritage back in April, but the “W” column on his formbook hasn’t been ticked again since that win in Portrush.

“I’ve had some good results over the last number of months. I’m pretty happy where my game is at . . . . I hope that I can be competitive this week. I’d like to put up a good defence of my trophy, and I’d give anything to have a chance to win come the weekend. I’m out there planning for that over the next few days, and we’ll see how it goes.”

He added: “Look, I’m sure there’s going to be a bit of anxiety on Wednesday. There is every week. I suppose most of the tournaments I play these days are big tournaments so you have a lot to play for.

“You want to go out and do well. There is always that little bit of anxiousness to get out there and get going on a Thursday morning, and it’ll be the same this week . . . . there’s something to having that little bit of anxiety there, it just focuses you in on your shots. I’m kind of ready to defend it. I’m ready to go and play in The Open again and I’m looking forward to it.”