By Bernie McGuire, Albany, The Bahamas
“Tiger Woods was one of the reasons I started playing golf and a reason why I kept playing golf.”
The words from Shane Lowry ahead of teeing-up for a first time in this week’s Woods hosted Hero World Challenge here in the Bahamas.
It’s the 23rd hosting of the event won by Woods on five occasions while the 15-time major winner has finished runner-up on a similar number of times.
Irish-born golfers have done well in the event with Padraig Harrington winning in 2002 and Graeme McDowell in 2010 and 2012.
Lowry had been waiting anxiously for a few months before confirmation of his appearance in the 20-player, no-cut, $US3m event and while expecting a formal invitation, officials rubber-stamped his appearance with the withdrawal of an injured Will Zalatoris.
While Lowry is not in Woods’ close circle of friends, he knows Woods well enough to enjoy small chit-chat with ‘TW’, who disappointingly has withdrawn this week as he battles a plantar fasciitis on his right foot.
And while there is a collective disappointment among all in attendance in the Bahamas that Woods will not be inside the ropes, Lowry is excited to be among seven first-timers taking to the Ernie Els designed Albany course.
“Growing up as a kid I used to watch Tiger play all the time, and then when I would go out to play, I’d try and copy his actions and that is how I learned to play golf,” said Lowry.
“Tiger has been great for the sport and even without him, given what has taken place over the last few years, the sport continues to grow.
“So, it’s pretty cool that here I am in the Bahamas and all set to tee-up in his event.
“It’s a little disappointing he’s withdrawn but all you can do is respect his decision, and hope he shakes this latest injury sooner rather than later.
“He’s still going to be here for the week, so it will be nice to be receiving the trophy from him on Sunday night. That’s the plan”.
Lowry, accompanied by long-time coach Neil Manchip, arrived into the Bahamas around 1am (local time – Tuesday), jetting-in from Las Vegas where the BMW PGA champ had been hosting a corporate outing on TPC the Summerlin course, host venue for the PGA Tour’s Shriners Hospital Open.
The early arrival meant for a long lie-in within their spanking Albany luxury apartment, one of many that have been allocated the visiting players and with the players using motorised buggies to drive back-and-forward along Els Way to the course.
Manchip is going to caddy for Lowry with regular caddy Brian ‘Bo’ Martin now chilling out till mid-January when the pair rejoin for the January 13th commencing Hero Cup in Abu Dhabi.
It will be the first time in over four years Manchip will caddy for Lowry in a tournament.
Lowry will tee-up in round one at 4.44pm (Irish time) in the company of Canadian Corey Conners, winner of the 2019 Valero Texas Open.