Until now, Shane Lowry's name was best known in American golfing circles on account of a major championship objection. Last year, the Irishman admitted to being "annoyed" at what he regarded as a "cheeky" draw for the US Open which partnered him with Kevin Stadler and Brendon de Jonge. The trio have full frames in common.
Who’s laughing now?
Lowry's success at the WGC-Bridgestone Invitational on Sunday, his first in the United States, has catapulted him into the world's top 20. A glance at the top 10 from Akron - featuring Bubba Watson, Jordan Spieth, Henrik Stenson and Justin Rose - offers another nod to the size of Lowry's achievement. His closing round of 66 lacked nothing in entertainment value.
Back home at Esker Hills, a party intended to mark victory in the esteemed Mullingar Scratch Cup by Alan Lowry, Shane's younger brother, soon morphed into a double celebration. An astonishing run by Irish golfers on golf's biggest stages continues apace.
At 28, Lowry is finally delivering on the promise which was evident back in 2009, when he famously won the Irish Open when still an amateur. Now, he has a three-year exemption on the PGA Tour. “Obviously the Irish Open got my career kick-started, it was great for me,” he said. “But I think this is getting the next stage of my career kick-started now hopefully.
“I feel like I’ve been playing good golf for the last couple of years. I’ve been in and around top 50 in the world and trying to get into events and trying to compete in events and missed a couple of big cuts by a shot or two this year, which is a bit disappointing. I was never too far away. I think this is going to give me the confidence, hopefully, to drive on now and win more events and hopefully the floodgates will open.
“My game has definitely improved a lot over the last couple of years. I’m probably 20 yards longer than I was. My irons are so much more consistent. My wedge play is better. All round, I’m probably a better player and more mature as a player as well, which is a big thing.”
To close observers, all Lowry had previously lacked was a bit of belief and, perhaps, the good fortune which he undoubtedly benefitted from on Sunday. He has a brilliantly simple golf swing amid which little should go wrong.
Having collected $1.57 million, Lowry has taken a huge step towards his two immediate goals. “I want to play in the Olympics,” he admitted. “I’m very patriotic, so I want to play for my country. This obviously puts me right in a good position to be in the Olympics next year. The Olympics and the Ryder Cup are two big things on my list next year. This is definitely a step in the right direction.”
For Olympic company, Lowry would almost certainly have Rory McIlroy. Albeit two years separate them, Lowry and McIlroy jousted as young amateurs and played on the same Irish teams.
Their relationship was presumed to have cooled after the bitter legal wrangle between McIlroy and his former management firm, Horizon, to whom Lowry is still attached. Yet Lowry swatted aside such a notion in the aftermath of his WGC win, stressing he will be delighted to see the world number one return to action at the US PGA Championship from Thursday.
“When I heard about Rory’s injury, I just sent him a text that said, ‘Heard about the injury, hope to see you back as soon as you can’,” Lowry recalled. “I’m sure I’ll hear from him, I’m sure I’ll talk to him this week. It’s great to see him back so quick.
“Rory developed a lot quicker than I did. We were kind of around the same scene for maybe two years. We played on a couple of teams together and we won a couple of tournaments on teams. When you knock around with people like that, it definitely helps you.
“I’d love to go down the stretch (with McIlroy) again someday. You want to test yourself against the best players in the world. So if I find myself with nine holes to play in a battle with Rory next week, I’ll be very, very happy.” Guardian Service