Shane Lowry reminisces about that special week in Portrush in 2019

Mark McGowan

Shane Lowry with the Claret Jug in the Portrush locker room (Photo by Warren Little/R&A/R&A via Getty Images)

Mark McGowan

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Shane Lowry took a walk down memory lane at a media round table coinciding with the announcement that a ticket ballot is to take place for the 153rd Open Championship which returns to Royal Portrush in 2025.

Speaking from Colombus, Ohio where he is getting set to compete in the Jack Nicklaus hosted Memorial Tournament this week, the 2019 Open champion was more than happy to retrace the steps he’d taken enroute to his maiden major championship victory and what is undoubtedly one of the most special achievements in Irish golfing history.

“Saturday evening was the most special couple of hours I’ve ever had on a golf course to be honest,” Lowry said. “You know, playing in the Open in your home country is very special, but to be going round the back nine on a Saturday afternoon shooting an unbelievable score, and then finishing the way I did, I think my 4-iron to the 16th hole was a shot that, you know, you picture it up and it’s just everything that… you know when you visualise shots, a lot of times they don’t come off, but this is exactly what I had drawn up.

“And, yeah, I went and birdied that hole which, you know, that hole is is not called ‘Calamity’ for nothing. It’s a very tough par-3 three and when I birdied that, then birdied 17 and to be honest, at that stage, I felt like I could birdie every hole the way I was playing. But those couple of hours on the Saturday evening were the most special.

“So yeah, that would that would be one shot that kind of sticks out. And, you know, when you hit shots like that under pressure like that, it kind of gives you the confidence to go ahead and do what I did on Sunday, I suppose.”

At the recent PGA Championship, the Offaly native tied the major championship low scoring record for a single round with a 62 on Saturday – agonisingly watching a 12-footer slide by on the last that, had it dropped, would’ve seen him take sole possession of the record and set a target that, in all likelihood, would never be beaten.

But when comparing the 62 at Valhalla with that Saturday 63 in Portrush, he leant towards the latter when asked which of the rounds he thought was best.

“I would say the 63 in Portrush was probably be a little bit better, but yeah, they’re both very good,” he said, which was probably an understatement. “They’re both great rounds of golf. I think the 62 in Valhalla was probably very special as well, because I needed to do it to get back in the tournament, whereas, you know, in Portrush, I was already in the tournament, so you know, they’re both very special in their own right.

“It’s hard to put them up against each other. I think Valhalla played, probably a little bit easier than Portrush played that week. So yeah, the 63 in Portrush is probably a little bit better, but, you know, they’re both very, very special.

“It’s just one of those days, isn’t it? You just, you know, you’re seeing everything. You’re seeing your lines. And you’ve got everything going and yeah, it just happened. You need to be patient in this game. I always say that you need to kind of wait for things to happen, and, you know, on that day it happened.

“I hit the ball well, and then anytime I get got within 30 feet of hole, I felt like I was going to hole the putt – the hole looks pretty big those days.”

Shane Lowry at Royal Portrush (Photo by Matthew Lewis/R&A/R&A via Getty Images)

The win in 2019 came amidst a rich vein of form that had seen him rack up three top-10s in succession on the PGA Tour, starting with the RBC Heritage, and culminating in the RBC Canadian Open with a T8 at the PGA Championship in between, but he feels that he’s a better all-round player now than he was back then.

“I feel like the glass is always half full with me,” he explained. “I feel like I’m a better player now than I was in 2019. I feel like there’s parts of my game that are definitely better.

“Look, there’s parts that can always be improved on, but yeah, you know the form I’m in. I played OK last week in Canada – not amazing – but I played lovely in Valhalla. I feel like I’ve been playing OK, and I certainly feel like I’m a better player now than I was then.

“Maybe that’s just me, the positive golfer coming out in me, but yeah, just in terms of the Open Championship, it’s obviously great that it’s going back to Portrush next year so soon after being there in 2019.”

Lowry has gone on the record before saying that, of all the tournaments he’s ever played, if he could pick one to win then the 2019 Open Championship would’ve been it. But which tournament would be his second choice?

“Oh, I think the 2025 Open in Portrush,” he replied with a laugh. “I’ve always said – well I’ve said since I won it – if I sit down when I’m finished, if you’re to give me all the tournaments I’ve played and pick one to win, that would be it.

“And there wouldn’t even be a close second to it. I think the Masters is something that I’d love to win, but ultimately, as the majors, you know, any of the four at all. I’d be happy to get another one. Obviously, we’ve got some amazing venues coming up in Pinehurst and Troon and back to Portrush next year.

“I think we’re going back to Oakmont, maybe, but yeah, you know, any of the four majors at all. I would take any of them right now.”

Shane Lowry celebrates a putt on the tenth green during the second round of the 148th Open Championship (Photo by Matthew Lewis/R&A/R&A via Getty Images)

A proud Offaly man and a GAA fanatic, as luck would have it, he completed his Saturday round at the RBC Canadian Open just in time to watch the Offaly U-20 hurlers play the All-Ireland final against Tipperary, watching the first half on the phone in his car before getting back to the hotel room, donning the green, white and gold of the county and watching the second half from his hotel bed.

“Well, I wasn’t I wasn’t sitting there much,” he clarified. “I was jumping around the place like an eejit, but yeah, I was very proud. Very homesick that day and the following day. Very homesick.

“The team went back to Tullamore the following day, and they were in my bar, and you’re sitting there, all my friends are there, my mother and father were there and you’re getting pictures from home. It’s great. It’s great for hurling, it’s great for those young lads.”

As much as he loves Offaly, the Offaly people love him back and perhaps more besides and the support he received in 2019 and is sure to receive in 2025 will be incredible.

“I’m sure I’ll be reaching into my contact list at the R&A to try and get as many tickets as I can for for next year’s Open,” he said, before recalling 2019. “I remember the last time I had my own house, but there was another house with my dad and them in it, and I’m sure there was well into double figures staying in the house on the Saturday night.

“People were driving up on the Sunday, and to be honest, that’s why you have a team around you, and that’s why you have a manager and all those people because you don’t want to have to deal with that stuff, so I’m sure Brian will have a lot more stories than I do about it, but they pulled tickets out of places that I didn’t know existed on that Sunday, because everybody who I knew was there.

“There’s this one story about a guy I knew who hired – he doesn’t have that much money but he’s got his own little business, and he hired his own little private plane. You want to see the thing he flew up in from Kerry to rush on the Sunday to get there. A little propeller thing. I don’t know what he paid for it, but, you know, people did their best to get there.

And yeah, it was great to see everyone at the end. That was the coolest thing for me about Portrush to be honest, and that was the great thing about playing at home. If I was playing across in England or Scotland, my mum wouldn’t have come over on the Sunday or stuff like that.

“So, yeah, to have my mum there and people there at the back of the 18th green was very, very special.”

It will be hard to top 2019 for sure, but given the celebrations that followed and the reception he received in his home county, if he finds himself in contention in 2025, the crowds in 2019 might pale in comparison.

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