The golfing gods giveth and they taketh away, as Shane Lowry discovered only too well over the closing stretch of the Honda Classic where an untimely downpour – just before he teed off on the 18th – effectively denied him a final chance of lifting a first trophy since his famous win of the Claret Jug at Royal Portrush back in 2019.
"It's as bad a break as I've got in a while," said Lowry, of the timing of the heavy rainfall. He finished one stroke behind maiden tour winner Sepp Straka, the first Austrian to win on the PGA Tour.
“It’s a tough one to take. There’s obviously a lot of positives to take from the whole event, probably played some of the best golf of my whole career I feel around a very tough golf course. I’ll take that into The Players [at Sawgrass next week], and hopefully I can have a good week there.”
As it happens, it's probably a good thing for Lowry that he'd opted to take this week off – missing the Arnold Palmer Invitational at Bay Hill where, historically, he has performed poorly – and, whilst he has a number of sponsors' days to keep himself busy, it will also provide some time for reflection on what might have been before heading into a busy stretch up to next month's US Masters knowing that the game is in really good shape.
Lowry’s runner-up finish to Straka earned him a payday of €777,562 and moved him up the world rankings – to 35th – and also enabled him to make a significant move up the FedEx Cup standings, moving 175 places up to 46th in what was only his fourth outing of the wraparound 2021/22 season.
“It’s hard to take,” observed Lowry in the aftermath of falling just one stroke short, adding that it felt like he’d had “the tournament stolen from me”.
In fairness, Straka covered the closing stretch in 3-3-3-3-4 (three under through those final five holes which included the infamous Bear Trap) to seal the deal.
But Lowry, too, hardly put a foot wrong in a bogey-free closing round, only for that untimely heavy rain to scupper any chance. Still and all, it again gave Lowry confirmation that his game is in a good place heading into events that includes the Players, then a week off, and then a stretch of three-in-a-row of the WGC-Dell Technologies Matchplay, the Valero Texas Open and the Masters.
Lowry, for sure, will return to the circuit at The Players eager for another win to end the 2½ year drought since his British Open success: “It’s hard to win out here, it’s just hard. End of story! There is no point saying any different . . . I played the golf to win the tournament but didn’t win. So, just the PGA Tour and the top level of world golf, the standard is very high at the minute.”
The decision to miss out Bay Hill this week was an easy enough one to make given his record there but there are positive vibes about the game going forward: “[Missing the API] , it’s the right thing to do in the lead-up to the Masters. I can’t play everything. The way the schedule is now so compact, you need to be careful in working out your playing schedule so, while this week is going to be an off week, I’ll work on my game and be ready for The Players. I’ve got a few sponsor things, so it won’t be putting the feet up, as I will be busy.”
If Lowry has to wait a week until a return to the megabucks Players – which has a purse of €17.8 million ($20m) – for his next chance at putting another “W” onto his CV, the chance comes quicker for the four Irish players competing at the API at Bay Hill this week. Rory McIlroy, Séamus Power, Pádraig Harrington and Graeme McDowell are all in the field at Arnie’s Place.
Leona Maguire, after a three-week break since her breakthrough LPGA Tour win at Drive On Championship, is competing in the HSBC World Championship in Singapore which is a limited field – of 66 players – and with no cut.