One of golf’s greatest charms is that one size doesn’t fit all. You can walk up and down the range at a European Tour event and, while there is an ever-increasing number of young bucks, immaculately turned out, often in white trousers, and without a spare ounce of fat on any of them, there is also, thankfully, the old school.
Being able to hit every position in the swing spot on, tweaking your 3-wood by this or that to hit your numbers and spin rates, sticking religiously to your work-out regimes and eating and drinking the right things, as admirable as it all is, doesn’t guarantee success.
One coach of some note commented to me in Abu Dhabi last week that you might have 100 major winners going solely by their TrackMan numbers, but there’s a whole load more to getting the job done.
— The European Tour (@EuropeanTour) January 20, 2019
Shane Lowry is, even at the young age of 31, pretty old school. He might well obsess about TrackMan like the next man on the range, he might not, but the swing doesn’t look too different from the one that won him the Irish Open while still an amateur nearly 10 years ago. He’s only had one coach, Neil Manchip, since the age of 17 and it’s all about the fundamentals – while the tummy looks as comfortable as his brilliant short game. He’s one of those enviable characters who just looks right with a club in his hands.
Go to any tour event where he and his great hero, and now good mate, Padraig Harrington are both in the field and there’s a good chance that the pair of them will be taking each other on in a variety of short-game challenges. More often than not, according to Harrington, Lowry will emerge the winner.
Maybe it’s one of those nice coincidences but, although Harrington’s appointment wasn’t a huge secret, it’s interesting that Lowry’s first win for three and half years came just 11 days after his fellow Irishman was named the Ryder Cup captain.
After his opening 62 Lowry said: “I sat down at the end of the year to plan out my schedule for this season, and I could have got in a few events in America if I tried with my category and maybe got an invite here or there, but my main goal for the next 18 months is to be on the Ryder Cup team.
“I’m obviously very good friends with Paddy and I’ve never played Ryder Cup, and I really want to at some stage, but to play with him as my captain would be unbelievable. That’s my plan.”
The standard answer to this question tends to sound something like: “Hey, look, who wouldn’t want to play in the Ryder Cup? But, for now, it’s just a case of playing well and working hard and thinking smart and, if I can keep doing those things, then the nice things like the Ryder Cup should take care of themselves.”
It’s just a collection of words and it’s pretty boring, something that Lowry certainly is not.
— The European Tour (@EuropeanTour) January 19, 2019
He might have won the WGC at Firestone, which was his last victory in 2015, but he was probably best known for missing out to Dustin Johnson at the 2016 US Open at Oakmont. Going into the final round he led by four.
In among the USGA rules shambles Lowry stumbled to a closing 76. After that hammer blow he said: “You can only learn from your mistakes, I always say it’s only a mistake if you don’t learn from it. I’m sure I learned a lot and I don’t know what it is yet, but when I’m in that position again, and I know I will be, I’ll handle it probably a little bit better.”
It might have taken longer than expected to be able to put those lessons into practice but it paid off last week.
The nerves were there and another lead had vanished, but he was able to piece together three birdies in the closing seven holes which was capped off by nutting a 3-wood from 281 yards into the heart of the final green. That all comes from having a mind as strong as your game.
“The one thing I got from Oakmont is I laid down and I didn’t show any fight or bottle there. I was getting myself in the same situation that I got myself in Oakmont and I genuinely thought that. But I kind of had a quick word with myself and told myself that, you know, just kick on now and just see what I can do for the next seven holes.”
Lowry hadn’t played Abu Dhabi since 2014 – he generally starts the season off at Torrey Pines – but after losing his card he kicked off his year here. His timing was unintentionally perfect with the riches of a Rolex Series event in Abu Dhabi, a winner’s cheque north of €1 million and a place well inside the top 50 in the world which re-opens up so many possibilities.
His early season had looked like stops in Qatar and Malaysia, now he’s pencilling in World Golf Championships in Mexico and the Match Play. Last season he wasn’t eligible for any of the WGCs.
And then, hopefully, a fourth trip to Augusta.
When Lowry was contending at Oakmont he spent part of the week being mixed up with Andrew ‘Beef’ Johnston or being called Steve.
There’s a good chance in the near future that the golfing world will get their heads round exactly who Shane Lowry is.