Shane Lowry: ‘I’ve never been as nervous on a golf course'
‘My goal for the rest of the season is to get another win, simple as that’
“I couldn’t see it in the air (approach to 18 from the left rough), couldn’t see where it was going, and then I just saw it coming down on the green. That was it, I was a winner.” Photograph: Richard Heathcote/Getty Images
It’s been a mad few days. Absolutely mental. I went through three battery charges on my mobile phone on Monday between catching up on messages on Twitter and Facebook, returning texts and whatever. I thought the phone was going to blow up in my hands there was so much activity. I guess it just shows how delighted people were with my win in Akron and I am hugely appreciative of all that support.
In some ways, it has been surreal. Phil Mickelson came up to me the other day here at Whistling Straits to congratulate me. Jim Furyk stopped me on the footbridge to say how well I had done. Jordan Spieth had the banter with me on the range.
“How’s it going?” I said to him.
“Not as good as you buddy,” he answered.
“I think you’re doing okay,” I replied.
Everyone, on the range, in the locker-room, has been shaking my hand or patting my back and it just shows the camaraderie that exists on tour even though we are all trying to win for ourselves.
And my win in the WGC-Bridgestone Invitational is, I know, massive for me and my career. I have been trying for a few years to get my card in America and, all of a sudden, I have it for three years. I had a number of goals at the start of the year: one was to win; one was to secure my PGA Tour card, one was to cement my place in the world’s top-50. Now, I have to reset my targets.
Golf is a funny game. I hadn’t felt great with my game in the run-up to the Bridgestone. We’d travelled from London – where one of Wendy’s close friends had got married – and arrived in Akron on the Monday night. I played 18 holes on Tuesday and nine holes on Wednesday and, being honest, I wasn’t really confident going into the week.
I didn’t feel that comfortable on the greens and the course was playing firm, so I put an extra wedge in the bag and took out the three-wood.
Then, day by day, it all slotted into place. On Thursday, I actually played really well but walked off the course frustrated. I’d missed everything I looked at, didn’t hole anything. On Friday, I went out and found something on the greens. It is amazing when something just triggers. It was just something in my set-up, standing a little taller, and it meant I made a freer stroke.
On Saturday, I was in the last group out with Jim Furyk. It was another thing I’d wanted to tick on my list, to be in the final group out at a big tournament. I felt I played him shot for shot and gave him a right run going down the last few holes, trying to get the lead off him. It was good. I didn’t mind being cast in the role of chasing down Jim and Justin Rose on the Sunday. I knew a lot of winners come out of the second last group in the final round. I knew I had a right chance.
On the Saturday night, I had dinner with Paul McGinley. And, on Sunday, I was having lunch before my round when Pádraig Harrington joined me. He’d finished his round. All he said to me was to dig in and to keep battling, to keep grinding. And that’s what I did. I felt in control and didn’t panic. Any time I got myself out of position I seemed to do the right thing, just made the right decisions all day. And I was looking at the leaderboards all day. I knew I’d gone into the lead on the eighth.
Some of those shots coming home got me pumped up, got the old fist pumps going for sure. On the 10th, I hit it left which is never great. But when I got down there, I’ll be honest, I saw the shot straight away. I got line of sight relief due to an advertising hoarding, one club length, and I said to my caddie Dermot Byrne, ‘if this was a practice round I would go for it, just do it’. That’s what I did, over the tree and up to the green. The crowd didn’t go that mad, so when I walked up I couldn’t believe it was stone dead.
There were other shots too. I hit it into the bunker on the 14th and knew not to do anything silly. I just played it out to the fairway, had 60 yards left but couldn’t go at the flag and finished 20 feet away. Holing that long par putt I believe won the tournament for me then and there. As I was playing 16 I heard the roar from up ahead and knew Bubba had done something. But I had a sense of calmness, it was weird. I then saw Bubba’s drive on 18 on one of the big screens and he’d hit it miles down.
I stuck to my game plan, hit an iron off the 17th, and then knew from the crowd’s reaction up ahead that Bubba hadn’t birdied 18. I felt a par-par finish would do it for me. As it turned out, I had that unlikely birdie on the finishing hole to win by two.
I’ve never been as nervous on a golf course as I was on that 18th tee. Dermot had been telling me every story he could think of for the previous few holes to ease the tensions. At one point he went to give me the ball back and my hand was shaking so much he wasn’t sure if I could hold onto it. But it was adrenalin nerves, and you wouldn’t be human if you weren’t nervous in such a situation. I was pumped up for that tee shot on the 18th, closed my eyes as I hit it, and pulled it a long way left.
One thing in my favour was that the drive was a long way down. When I got to the ball, I found it was in a hole. Ideally, I would have loved to open up my pitching wedge and hit a cut over the trees but I couldn’t do that. I had to use my sand wedge. I pulled it, but it came out good. I couldn’t see it in the air, couldn’t see where it was going, and then I just saw it coming down on the green. That was it, I was a winner.
It was great to share it with Dermot. He’s a great lad. We have our ups and downs, like an old married couple. We fall out, get back together. We are a good team. At end of the day that’s one of the most special things that will ever happen, winning your first WGC, and to share that with someone you’ve been around six years is great.
I am quite lucky that I’ve surrounded myself with a lot of good people. I’ve knocked around with Graeme McDowell for years and you learn from people. He does everything he can to be the best player he can be and Pádraig is the same. I’ve learned from them, they’re great to hang around with.
I feel lucky. I got Dermot pretty quickly after I turned pro. I’ve been with my coach Neil Manchip for years. Conor Ridge of Horizon has been great for me. I’ve been with my chiro Shane Lawlor for a couple of years and the work I’m doing with my fitness expert Robbie Cannon means my body feels as good as it ever has. I don’t look that different but I feel stronger and I am definitely hitting the ball a lot further. People think of me as someone who sits back and does nothing, just plays a bit of golf and has a good time, but maybe that perception is changing. All those mornings in Santry with Robbie are paying off.
The only disappointment on Sunday was being informed by a PGA Tour official after I signed my card that I wasn’t into the FedEx Cup playoffs. I find it a bit weird but it is what it is. I flew from Akron to Sheboygan on Sunday night in a chartered plane with Ian Poulter and Henrik Stenson. Within two hours of leaving the media centre in Akron, I was in my house by Whistling Straits.
I got lots of messages. I’ve a WhatsApp group with my friends back home in Clara and when I opened it up they were commenting on the fact that the Gooch had tweeted about me. He is one of my sporting idols, someone I love to watch playing football. Bernard Brogan as well. I played golf with AP McCoy a couple of weeks ago, a lovely lad. Ireland is such a small place and we are great supporters of our own. That has really hit home with me.
I don’t know what’s going to happen this week. I am obviously going to be going out there playing with confidence, there’s no reason why I shouldn’t be. I’m playing with freedom, and my goal for the rest of the season is to get another win, simple as that. I am a professional golfer and I want to play well every week.