By Bernie McGuire in Abu Dhabi
After ending last year running on the smell of an oily rag, Shane Lowry tees-up in this week’s inaugural Hero Cup boasting his tanks are full and he’s ready to savour a GB&I success in Abu Dhabi.
Lowry’s very much the standout member of captain Tommy Fleetwood’s side, a major winner, member of the last European Ryder Cup side along with being the reigning BMW PGA champion.
The Irishman, at World No. 20, is the highest ranked player on both sides and the Clara golfer is also a past Abu Dhabi winner, capturing the 2019 Abu Dhabi HSBC championship ahead of lifting the famed Claret Jug six months later at Royal Portrush.
Lowry, along with fellow Irishman and FedEx No. 1 Seamus Power, plus Scotland’s top-ranked Robert MacIntyre got their first look at the National course on Wednesday with the 10 members of the GB&I team taking to the 10th tee with the rival Francesco Molinari led Europeans starting from the 1st tee.
To make matters interesting, Lowry, Power and MacIntyre arranged a 100 Dirham (25 Euros) individual ‘skins’ game amongst themselves with Power collecting the money, winning nine holes to MacIntyre’s seven with the other two halved while Lowry failed to bag a hole.
All three players were upbeat, laughing throughout and also enjoying taking the proverbial out of each other as Ryder Cup vice-captain Nicolas Colsaerts looked on. They were also joined late in the round by victorious Ryder Cup winning captains Jose Maria Olazabal and Paul McGinley.
Olazabal and McGinley were brought out to Abu Dhabi at the request of European Ryder Cup captain Luke Donald to help inspire all 20 players, and by all reports their collective talk all players hit the spot.
“I arrived on Tuesday really excited to get going this year and what better week to get the New Year juices flowing than a week like this week,” said Lowry.
“I was great sitting in the room last night listening to Jose Maria, Paul, Thomas (Bjorn) and Luke up there in front of all of us, and just relaying some of their many great Ryder Cup stories.
“It does get your juices flowing and it was kind of inspirational listening to them while they played some videos of some really special European Ryder Cup moments.
“I definitely feel like I don’t need any motivation coming into 2023 but listening to the guys last night has given me an extra bit going forward.
“And all credit to Luke because what he has done so far in getting this Hero Cup off the ground, and after many years in losing the Seve Trophy, is quite clever.
“Then to arrange for the last three winning European captains here this week has been great as you can only learn from being in the presence of those guys, and while Luke arranged for them to be here to help us, I am sure he is learning a lot, as well.”
Another plus for Lowry this week, the same as with fellow GB&I team-mates in Fleetwood (2017 and ’18) and Tyrrell Hatton (2021) is that Lowry is a past winner at this week’s host venue.
“I know the golf course very well and having played a practice round today, there is not much rough compared to when we played the HSBC here, so the golf course is a bit more gettable than it normally is.
“As well, it’s always nice to come back to a place where you won as it brings back good memories, and I also have to say the DP World Tour have done a great job with regards to the set-up this week both on the course and off course.”
For Power it was his first look at the course and greatly impressing by out-driving his pair of playing partners on a number of holes.
“The golf course is fine and I really enjoyed the round,” he said.
“Though there were a couple of greens that could be better, if the breeze gets any stronger it will be a good test.
“I hit the ball well today and better still I won the money (smiling). I’m always a big fan of playing little games, so it was good fun.
“I hadn’t met Robert MacIntyre before, but it was great to catch-up with Shane.”
Thursday will be a pro-am format ahead of competition starting Friday morning.