Tougher events bring out the best in Shane Lowry
Offaly man’s tied-eighth place in the US PGA moves him up to 39th in the world rankings
Shane Lowry on the second tee during his final round of the PGA Championship at Bethpage Black, New York. Photograph: Christian Petersen/Getty Images
Maybe there’s a masochistic streak inside Shane Lowry as his experience of the sometimes unruly crowd at Bethpage Black – where his tied-eighth place in the US PGA added $264,382 to his bank balance and moved him up to 39th in the latest world rankings – has only served to whet his appetite for more when the Ryder Cup returns to the Long Island, New York, venue in 2024.
By then, of course, Lowry will hope to be an experienced Ryder Cupper as he aims to make Pádraig Harirngton’s team for Whistling Straits next year.
“A Ryder Cup here will be crazy,” said Lowry, who got a foretaste of how it could be at Bethpage.“I think Europe will need to have the 12 most thick-skinned players. It will be brutal. I would leave the wives inside in that one too!”
Lowry certainly showed other traits apart from being thick-skinned in fashioning a top-10 finish in his latest Major appearance, the world ranking points (moving from 45th to 39th), the FedEx Cup points (moving from 147th to 110th) and the Race to Dubai points (up to third) all providing a net worth of a weekend – where he shot rounds of 68-69, better than anyone – which only reaffirmed his opinion that his best play is produced in tougher events.
“I like golf where you need to go out and battle it out, to grind it out. I’ve always said they’re the tournaments that suit me the most. That’s what Majors are all about.
“Augusta is maybe a little bit different, but most Majors are about going out and grinding your nuts off, where pars are good. If you look at tournaments I generally do well in, Wentworth, Valderrama. They’re the courses I play well on. I felt comfortable here. I don’t feel out of my comfort zone out playing these tournaments anymore.”
Lowry can pencil in some more immediate Major assignments as his world ranking has guaranteed him a place in the field for next month’s US Open at Pebble Beach, and also the 148th Open championship at Royal Portrush in July.
Indeed, his finish in Bethpage represented his fourth career top-10 finish in the Majors, which only underscored his belief that he responds to the tougher challenges.
“I keep saying it is a strange game we play. You’re only one swing [away] from going home on Friday,” said Lowry, who only survived on the cut line thanks to a late 17th hole birdie in his second round.
“It’s a serious mental test, and it’s a physical test too. The mental test grinds on you, and I don’t think mentally I was there on Thursday, but I somehow got it back the last few days...I feel like I’m doing all the right things, and just keep doing what I’m doing, and see where it leaves me in November and December.”
Scheduled to return home to Dublin this week after a three-month stint with his family in the US, Lowry’s upward and onward momentum will next be brought to the Canadian Open next month, where he will sharpen his game ahead of the US Open on the Monterrey peninsula. For Rory McIlroy it also proved to be a profitable weekend. Down in 125th place at one point of his second round on Friday, the Northern Irishman’s weekend rounds of 69-69 enabled him to also move up the leaderboard to share eighth place. It constituted his ninth top-10 finish in 10 tournaments this season and, having belatedly rejoined the European Tour as a member, got him his first Race to Dubai points.
McIlroy, the world number four, is taking a week’s break before resuming a schedule that will see him play the Memorial tournament and the Canadian Open before playing the US Open.
Graeme McDowell’s improved form this season – including a win in the Dominican Republic – has yet to book him a place in the field for the British Open at Royal Portrush, his home course, but the 39-year-old Ulsterman has a number of avenues remaining in his quest to book that spot, with qualifying places available at the DDF Irish Open and Scottish Open. He also intends to play in the final qualifying at St Annes in Lancashire ahead of the Irish Open.
More immediately, McDowell – who started the year in 238th in the world ranking and who has now moved up to 115th – is in the field for this week’s PGA Tour stop for the Charles Schwab Challenge at the Colonial in Texas, where Séamus Power is also competing.
Stephanie Meadow is playing in the Pure Silk Championship in Williamsburg, Virginia, on the lPGA Tour, while Leona Maguire – fresh from a second win this season on the Symetra Tour, where she tops the order of merit – will aim to continue her great form when she competes in the Zimmer Biomet Championship hosted by Nancy Lopez.