It’s been nearly 400 days since well over 60,000 delirious fans cheered-on Shane Lowry to victory in last year’s Open Championship at Royal Portrush.
Now Lowry reckons his game is in such great shape and he can become a repeat major champion with no spectators on site at TPC Harding Park in San Francisco.
If so, Lowry would become the first back-to-back winner of a Major since Jordan Spieth won both the 2015 Masters and the following 2015 U.S. Open.
“It’s funny, like I played with Dustin (Johnson) and Phil (Mickelson) Saturday last week in Memphis and late on a Saturday I’m thinking how well I’m doing in a WGC,” said Lowry.
“I can imagine if there were crowds it would have felt a little bit different. And even Sunday coming down the stretch, I sort of felt like I had a chance going out there Sunday, and to be honest, I did feel it a little bit different.
“I don’t know if it was as much as you normally would feel it, but I did feel the heat a little bit coming down the stretch on Sunday, which was nice, because I hadn’t been in the situation since we started playing without fans.
“This week, will the players that have a chance on the back nine on Sunday feel like they would do if there were 40,000 people here? Probably not as much as you might think, but I still think they’ll feel it a little bit. I still think there’s a whole lot up for grabs, and winning one of these things for certain players can be career-changing, life-changing.
“I think people will feel it. I know if I have a chance on Sunday, I’ll probably feel it a little bit, but it’ll be nice to be in that situation.”
In speaking of last week in Memphis, Lowry secured his best finish of T6th in the total of 10 events he’s contested on the PGA Tour’s 2019/20 wraparound schedule that began last September.
And if there was a standout shot of Lowry’s four days at TPC Southwind in Memphis it was his penultimate shot into the 72nd hole green, moments after sending his drive into the water down the right side of the last.
Lowry had 183-yards to the pin and put his shot to just 18-inches to save par to lock-in a share of sixth, a shot by the Open Champion that host broadcaster CBS has been lambasted in choosing not to cover.
That shot, Lowry says, called by caddy ‘Bo’ Martin, back on the bag for the first time since the lockdown, has added the real spring in his step heading into this week.
“It was interesting how it unfolded as I hit a bad tee shot, hit it in the water and I found a decent drop where I had 190 or 180 something to the hole, and I just tried to hit a good shot and hit it to a foot, which was nice,” said Lowry.
“But it was nice because I think if I’d have bogeyed that hole or doubled that hole to finish 12th or 15th or whatever, I would have been very disappointed coming off the week, instead of feeling like I played quite nicely last week.
“On Sunday last week I gave myself a lot of chances in the first 16 holes and I didn’t really convert any of them, and I felt like I could have been there or thereabouts when it came to who was going to win the tournament.
“I was very happy last week. It was my first week with Bo back on the bag, which was nice. It was nice to have a familiar face there. So yeah, it was good. I’m very happy with it.”
Lowry will play the opening two rounds in the company of defending champ, Brooks Koepka and current US Open winner, Gary Woodland.
And Koepka was full of compliments for Lowry, who had been a regular social round golfing partner during the ‘lockdown’.
“I like Shane. He’s a funny guy. He’s a character,” said Koepka.
“I enjoy playing with Shane and I’ve played a lot with him at the Floridian during lockdown. It was fun. I enjoyed the competition, trying to battle into something for being off for three months.
“Shane is a good player. Drives it really well. He hits a tight little draw. Great short game, and he’s going to be right there come Sunday.”
Lowry appreciated the remarks saying: “It’s great Brooks saying that. It’s nice to be able to play with some of the best players in the world, and I was fortunate enough to be able to do that during lockdown.”
Lowry will be making his ninth PGA Championship appearance since his debut in 2010 at Whistling Straits.
The majors winning trio will tee-off on day one at 8.11am (local US time) or 4.11pm Irish from the 10th tee on the TPC Harding Park course located on the shoreline of Lake Merced, less than 10 miles south of the famed Golden Gate Bridge.
Lowry and Rory McIlroy are each out in the morning while Graeme McDowell, the third Irishman in the event, is contesting a 14th PGA Championship and finds himself out in the afternoon half of the draw.
LOWRY’S PGA CHAMPIONSHIP RECORD
1ST Appearance – 2010 (Missed Cut)
No. of appearances – 8
Best finish – T8th (2019)
Lowest score – 64 (Round 2, 2018)
Highest score – 79 (Round 2, 2010)
McILROY’S PGA CHAMPIONSHIP RECORD
1ST Appearance – 2010 (Missed Cut)
No. of appearances – 11
Best finish – 1st (2012 & 2014)
Lowest score – 66 (Round 4, 2012; Round 1, 2014)
Highest score – 75 (Round 2, 2012)
McDOWELL’S PGA CHAMPIONSHIP RECORD
1ST Appearance – 2004 (Missed Cut)
No. of appearances – 14
Best finish – T10th (2009)
Lowest score – 66 (Round 4, 2013)
Highest score – 78 (Round 2, 2011)
IRISH TEE TIMES – PGA CHAMPIONSHIP (Irish time)
4.11pm – Shane Lowry
4.33pm – Rory McIlroy
9.25pm – Graeme McDowell