Open Champion Shane Lowry will return to competition this week after all when he revisits one of his favourite courses for the BMW PGA Championship at Wentworth.
The Clara star joins Padraig Harrington and Graeme McDowell in leafy Surrey for the third Rolex Series event of the season and will hope to rekindle his love affair with a layout where he has enjoyed three top-10s, including a second place finish to a certain Rory McIlroy in 2014.
The decision represents a U-turn for Lowry who insisted that he’d be taking a break from the game after missing the cut at the Irish Open a fortnight ago.
Lowry confessed that an extended nine-week stay in America, much of it without his young family, had taken its toll and as much as he would’ve loved to return to Wentworth, quarantine restrictions between Ireland and the UK would prove too much:
“I would like to play Wentworth but it doesn’t make sense for me to go over and play the BMW PGA one week, and then have to travel back to Ireland and quarantine for two weeks,” Lowry said last month.
“It is just something that I cannot do as I have been away from my family for too long and I am missing an important stage of my daughter’s life, and that’s not been nice.”
However, it’s understood that given the current extent of Covid restrictions in Ireland, Lowry’s hopes of using his time off to catch up with friends and family would’ve been impacted regardless of making the trip to London.
The 33-year old had the weekend off at Galgorm anyway, and left the clubs well alone as the Scottish Open continued in his absence last week at The Renaissance Club. Now, with a €7 million prize fund at stake, at the European Tour’s flagship event, and at a venue the Offaly man adores, Lowry’s headed to Wentworth to make hay while the sun’s shining, safe in the knowledge that level 3 restrictions back home mean his movements will be limited whether he plays this week or not.
Added to that, he’ll be hoping to find some form on a course he knows so well before turning his attention to America once more where he’ll play the Houston Open in the lead up to this year’s November Masters at Augusta National from the 12th-15th.
And Lowry’s in good company when it comes to Covid-related U-turns. Padraig Harrington was so impressed by the safety within the Tour’s bubble at Galgorm Castle that he continued playing past the Irish Open despite initially believing that that would be a burden too far for the three-time Major winner.
That proved a great decision because after showing signs of form in a missed cut in Ballymena, Harrington put four rounds together in Scotland to claim a top-10 finish at the Renaissance Club – a best result in some two years – and a cheque worth €107,867 to go with it.
The 49-year-old confessed that he’d even tweaked his neck before going out to produce a superb 67 in North Berwick on Sunday and hailed his putting heroics for helping him post a tied-ninth result that he’ll hope to build on this week in England.
“I tweaked my neck before I went out and I struggled to hit the golf ball all day,” he said.
“I really struggled with my alignment because I couldn’t look up properly. So that put me off most of the day but I stuck in there and managed my way around the golf course and I putted quite well.
“I am really happy that I putted well because that has been pretty weak for a good few years so I saw some positive signs in my putting this week that I was very happy about. I would have liked to have been injury-free today to give it a good run but I probably got the most out of the round that I could have.
“There was pain when I swung the golf club but that didn’t bother me. When I was standing over the ball, I had to move my whole body rather than just my head so it freaked me out big time all day.”
Fellow Major champion Graeme McDowell completes Ireland’s trio of traveling stars and of the three, the former US Open champion is perhaps in most need of a performance at Wentworth.
GMac’s wretched post lockdown season continued in missing a sixth halfway cut in succession at the Scottish Open after failing to back up an opening 69 with a day two 74 to miss the cut by one.
It was a particularly sobering miss given McDowell three-putted his last hole to finish one shot outside the eventual even par cut-off mark but he’ll be hoping to turn the tables on his recent luck at a Wentworth track where he finished tied-12th in 2018.
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