Shane Lowry will find himself under the microscope for a different reason this week in the Mardi Gras capital of New Orleans.
Lowry is teaming-up with European Ryder Cup Captain, Padraig Harrington in Thursday’s starting Zurich Classic, a unique tournament team event boasting a $7,300,000 prize purse that includes a $1,051,200 cheque to each winning team member.
Harrington and Lowry have become good friends since Lowry joined the pro ranks in late 2009, yet Lowry will surely have a double reason to do well around the alligator aplenty TPC Louisiana course.
Not only will Lowry be looking to make amends in letting slip victory in last Sunday’s concluding RBC Heritage Classic, he will quietly wish to impress Harrington of his hopeful 2020 Whistling Straits European team credentials.
The pair have played often in practice rounds together, even pitting their wits against each other in pre-tournament short-game, high-stakes competition, but this is the first pro-tournament teaming of any sorts for the Irish duo.
32-year old Lowry has made no secret of his desire to compete at the famous biennial event, but to think that far ahead will do the Offaly man no favours when it comes to producing his best stuff when it matters most, i.e, now.
Lowry rose seven places and back to World No. 43 thanks to his podium finish in South Carolina and that ranking will ensure his appearance in next month’s PGA Championship, along with June’s U.S. Open.
Lowry also leaped 78 places to 125th on the FedEx Cup standings, with 125th the cut-off point in August for Lowry to win back his Tour card.
But the key to all of these doors of opportunity opening for Lowry this week was his ability to relax on the golf course at the Heritage. The lead up to Augusta was riddled with top-50 thoughts and despite securing his invite to the Masters, his mind was so scrambled with expectation when he got there that it proved a short-lived venture through the gates of Magnolia Lane.
And although it’s far too early to predict that Lowry has found a technique to unlock the mind to his better playing after just one performance, it would be prudent of Lowry to continue in a similar vein alongside Padraig this week despite the undoubted media questioning and Ryder Cup preamble that’s likely to come with the partnership.
Unfortunately, that’s all part and parcel of professional golf and if Lowry wants to take to the fairways of Whistling Straits as part of Team Europe, he’ll need to prove his composure off the golf course as much as he will on it.
Yet it’s not all about Lowry this week in New Orleans from an Irish perspective. Jumping 130 places on the World Rankings to the new No. 285 ranked player was Seamus Power, who secured his second-best Tour finish with a share of sixth place at the Heritage.
The West Waterford professional has also taken a big step in holding onto his Tour card in moving-up 48 spots to 141st on the FedEx standings and he’ll partner Canadian David Hearn this week in the hopes of continuing his recent momentum.
While perhaps the most intriguing partnership from an Irish perspective sees Graeme McDowell partnering Sweden’s Henrik Stenson. Despite finding themselves on multiple teams as professionals, they haven’t partnered until now but with 400 FedExCup points on offer to each winning team member, what better place to start than the Pete Dye designed TPC Louisiana.
A two-player team event, the Zurich Classic is a Four-ball (best ball) during the first and third rounds and Foursomes (alternate shot) during the second and fourth rounds. The starting field will consist of 80 teams (160 players). Following the conclusion of the second round, there will be a cut to the low 35 teams and ties at the 35th position. In case of a tie after 72 holes, there will be a sudden-death playoff using the Foursomes format for the first extra hole, Four-ball for the second extra hole and the alternating formats, thereafter, on a set rotation of holes until a winner is confirmed.