It’s no surprise Shane Lowry should be heading into Thursday’s commencing U.S. Open at Winged Foot treating the year’s second major akin to teeing-up last year in the Open Championship at Royal Portrush.
Of course, there will not be the overwhelming Irish home grown support Lowry enjoyed for four days along the Co. Antrim shoreline but then, nor will there be any Big Apple fans all too quick to take a nasty ‘bite’ out of an unsuspecting competitor.
Lowry got his first look at the very lush, parkland-style course laid out on New York’s Long Island on Monday playing his first official practice round ahead of making his eighth appearance in a U.S. Open since a debut in 2011 at Congressional where Rory McIlroy captured the first of now four majors.
“I’ve never played Winged Foot so it was good to get out onto the course practicing to get myself in the right frame of mind,” said Lowry.
“U.S. Opens are always hard set-ups and I love a very tough test of golf. I like playing traditional US Open venues, which this is, so it’ll be good to test myself against the best in the world once again. I’ll be giving it a go.
“It’s a little bit different this year, given that it’s outside its normal slot. I’m obviously trying to peak and spent last week trying to get my game right.
“I’ll just try my hardest and give it my best and see where it leads me and it’s why I am treating Winged Foot as a similar kind of test to last season’s Open Championship.
“Having won that, I know I can beat the best in the world on my day, so I’m excited to get back to teeing it up in the second Major of this truncated season.”
Lowry got immediately into contention at last week’s 2020/21 PGA Tour season-opener at the Safeway Open in posting a four-under 68 before revealing after his round, he was heading straight to the range to ‘sort out’ a new driver.
Disappointing for Lowry, the new driver let him down and he then missed the halfway cut with a 73.
“Yeah, I put a new driver in the bag last week as the one I’d been using for the last couple of years, I think it’s probably gone a little bit dead,” he said.
“I practised with it last weekend over at the Safeway and hopefully it goes alright. I need to get back to driving it well because you need to drive the ball very well the way a U.S. open course is set up.
“Funnily enough, I was listening to Dustin Johnson the other week. He’s been on fire all through the Fed-Ex Cup but hit a dip a little before that. He reckons he was just standing a little too close to the ball when he was driving and it was impacting the rest of his game.”
Lowry will be teeing-up later today in his eighth U.S. Open with a best finish of runner-up to Johnson in 2016 at Oakmont, where Lowry led by a massive four shots heading to the last day.
Speaking in the months following Oakmont, Lowry said: “Everyone asks me about Oakmont 2016 and whether it still plays on my mind – but the answer is no, absolutely not!
“Just because I had a good chance of winning a U.S. Open back then when I led on the final day before Dustin Johnson caught me, isn’t an issue. If anything, it gives me more confidence going forward as I know I can call on it if I get myself in that position again.”
Lowry proved that last year commencing the new season winning in Abu Dhabi and then being handed the Claret Jug in July at Royal Portrush.
“In golf, you only need one small tweak and it can recover your game from what you thought was miles away,” he said.
“It’s a funny thing. Small margins make all the difference and all the lads on Tour are always looking for something that can trigger your best form.
“You’re only one week away from greatness in this game and that’s what keeps us all going because you know you can be very close to doing something special.
“I was second to ‘DJ’ in the U.S. Open four years ago and that experience helped shape my game since then.
“I’ll be pulling on those memories and of my Open Championship win last year this week.”
Well said, Shane.
2020 U.S. OPEN – Irish tee times – Round One (Irish time)
1.07pm – Rory McIlroy (With Adam Scott & Justin Rose)
1.18pm- Graeme McDowell (With Matt Kuchar & Lucas Glover)
5.54pm – James Sugrue (With Lee Westwood & Bubba Watson
6.05pm – Shane Lowry (With Gary Woodland & Andy Ogletree)