It’s been a decade since a little-known Shane Lowry teed-up in the Hong Kong playing second fiddle to then US Open champ Graeme McDowell.
Lowry was a lowly 139th ranked player in the world in his last event of 2010, and at the end of a first full season in the pro ranks, the Irishman dipped to 148th in missing the Hong Kong cut for a second year in succession in the former colonial outpost.
Now as the reigning Open Champion Lowry’s ranked a lofty No. 19 in the world, he’s been afforded No. 1 status in this week’s rescheduling of the event to be played on the superb and ‘old-fashion’ Hong Kong Golf Course in suburban Fanling.
“It’s funny, when I look back as the last time I was here in Hong Kong and it was G Mac, who was the U.S. Open champion at the time, who was getting all the attention and having all the red carpets laid out for him,” said Lowry smiling.
“He had the courtesy cars waiting for him each day and I was checking the bus timetable from the hotel to the golf course.
“It’s just nice now to be back here in Hong Kong and with my own courtesy car.
“So, to now come back 10-years on as the Open Champion is incredible.
“Back then it was end of the first year of a new decade and now this week we’re just coming into a second week of another new decade.
“From where I grew-up and where I am from in Ireland, I never thought I would be sitting somewhere like here in Hong Kong as the Open Champion.
“I am certainly going to take it all in and enjoy it, and try my best to keep it going and hopefully we will see what the next 10-years brings.”
The $1m event is going ahead some six weeks after continuing student protests forced both the Asian Tour and European Tour, as co-sanctioning partners, to postpone the event.
However, the European Tour has backed out of co-sanctioning this week’s restaging of the event due to a clash with the co-hosting with the South African-based Sunshine Tour of the South African Open.
Among those teeing-up in South Africa will be Portmarnock’s Conor Purcell making his pro career debut in a European Tour event.
And while Purcell will have plenty of European-born company in Joburg, you can count on one hand the number of Europeans joining Lowry in Hong Kong.
Joining Lowry is World No. 17 Tony Finau, teeing-up for a first occasion since being a member of the Tiger Woods led victorious USA Presidents Cup side.