When Shane Lowry burst onto the scene as an amateur in winning the 2009 Irish Open at Baltray, many people could be forgiven for thinking that the Offaly man would go on to thrive in a links environment.
That fateful week, where all four seasons crashed down upon the field in County Louth, Lowry put on a masterclass in shot-making as the then little-known Clara golfer claimed a most unlikely win over Robert Rock in a playoff to announce himself to the golfing public.
Like Rafael Nadal on clay, Lowry was set to take the golfing world by storm any time a championship touched links terrain, and yet to many people’s surprise, it hasn’t worked out that way since; quite the opposite in fact.
Lowry is not the proven links specialist many expected him to be. The 31-year old has missed the cut in his last four Open Championship starts, enduring mostly misery at golf’s oldest Major having succumbed to early exits at St Andrews, Troon, Birkdale and Carnoustie. Indeed, Lowry’s best result in an Open remains his tie for 9th finish in 2014 at Hoylake as his search for a maiden Major championship rolls on.
But perhaps this year could be different?
“Ah look, I’m in a much better place than I have been for a while,” Lowry said. “I think the only time I’ve been playing well going into an Open in the last few years was the one after Oakmont (Troon) and I was probably still hurting a little bit from Oakmont and it was tough.
“I’m not making excuses but I feel like I’m coming in playing as good as I ever have and my form is as good as it’s ever been coming into an Open so maybe this will be the one that will turn it around.
“I know my record is not very good in The Open so hopefully it could be different this week but I feel mentally and with my game that it’s way better than it has been at any time going into a major and going into an Open especially.”
Lowry should be further encouraged by the fact that he’s got course form at Royal Portrush where few others do. A winner of the North of Ireland Championship in 2008, there’s happy memories greeting Lowry around every corner of the Dunluce Links while his confidence is heightened having discovered something on the putting green on Sunday at Lahinch that should stand to the Offaly man this week too.
“This year I feel mentally very good coming in here. I am not rushing off the range to try and find my game or find my chipping or my putting. I am trying to get comfortable and just content in what I am doing.
“I played okay today [Tuesday]. I didn’t play great. I hit some nice shots towards the end which I was happy about. I struggled at the start. But the week of a major, you’re anxious about getting going and where your game is. I feel great about my game.
“I am coming into this week again and not that I am sick talking about it and saying the same things over and over again, but all I want to do is go out there and give my best on Thursday, see what I shoot and give my best on Friday and hopefully Saturday and Sunday and see where it leaves me on Sunday evening.”
Not only will Lowry not feel out of his comfort zone but he should be feeling right at home as the Open makes a first venture onto Irish soil since 1951. It’s going to be a party whatever happens at Royal Portrush but should Lowry contend, it could be one for the ages.
Lowry gets underway tomorrow at 07.52am alongside Phil Mickelson and Branden Grace.