Lowry giving captain Donald every reason for Ryder Cup snub

Ronan MacNamara
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Shane Lowry Image by Masters media

Shane Lowry should still make the European Ryder Cup team in Rome next month but it certainly isn’t a guarantee.

What’s the old saying in football? Don’t give the referee a decision to make. After a missed cut at the D+D Real Czech Masters in Prague, Lowry can no longer qualify automatically for Team Europe but his worrying end of season form may well have planted a seed of doubt in captain Luke Donald’s mind over his wildcard credentials.

The Offaly man endured a disappointing end to the season on the PGA Tour, missing the cut at the Open Championship – snapping a club in frustration on Friday – before a T51 at the Wyndham Championship saw him miss out on the FedEx Cup Playoffs, prompting him to head to Prague for some pre-Ryder Cup form.

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That hasn’t happened, yet.

Lowry started well at four-under-par through five holes of a very low scoring tournament but a worrying back nine saw him drift back and he was unable to recover in round two, missing the cut by two shots.

After a sensational end to the 2022 season – winning in Wentworth – it has been a very underwhelming 2023 for Lowry who has posted just one top-10 finish across the PGA and DP World Tour, although he has missed only five cuts with seven top-20 finishes thrown in.

An end to his player/caddie relationship with Bo Martin set the tone for a frustrating year, a mood he hasn’t been able to shake off since the Desert swing on the DP World Tour.

What has only added further worry through two rounds in Prague is that he missed the cut in a big field with other Ryder Cup hopefuls most of whom are playing well after 26 holes.

Current leader Alexander Björk of Sweden is 20th in the European Points List and he took full advantage of playing with Donald to hit the summit.

Rasmus Hojgaard seemed the more likely of the twins to earn a captains pick but Nicolai is stealing a march on him and potentially Lowry with an assured performance so far, lying in second place while Matt Wallace is putting on his usual eleventh hour Ryder Cup push – none of which have come to fruition in a pick so far.

Lots has been made about Swedish hotshot Ludvig Aberg and his Ryder Cup chances following an impressive start to life on the PGA TOUR having come through the PGA TOUR U programme. Fresh out of college could he be straight into the cauldron of a Ryder Cup? Donald’s potential ace in the pack has done his chances no harm at the halfway stage.

Season-long hopefuls, Robert MacIntyre, Adrian Meronk and Yannik Paul are also among the chasing pack and will be plotting a weekend charge. All three players occupy the top-3 places on the European Points List behind the already qualified Rory McIlroy and Jon Rahm with MacIntyre holding the coveted final automatic spot on Donald’s team.

Victor Perez’s chances looked doomed after withdrawing last week but he is only five shots back as he bids to get his chances back on track.

With just two qualifying events remaining heading into this week, many players know a win this late on will make them hard to ignore.

What could save Lowry is that Donald has six wildcard picks. For example, should the top-6 on the Ryder Cup points List stay the same (McIlroy, Rahm, Hovland, Hatton, Fleetwood, MacIntyre) then Donald would surely pick Matthew Fitzpatrick, Justin Rose and Sepp Straka after the Austrian made it to the TOUR Championship.

That leaves Donald with essentially three wildcard picks really. Lowry is tenth on the European Points List and eighth on the World Points List and he is the only chaser to have played in the biennial contest – impressing in Whistling Straits in 2021.

Europe will be heavy outsiders so they will need the core of their team playing well. Bringing an out of form Lowry would be a risk but one that Donald will most likely take from an experience point of view and the Clara man has a busy schedule on the DP World Tour before the Rome date at the end of September.

While Lowry’s wildcard hopes appear touch and go, Donald sung his praises before events unfolded in Prague.

“Shane brings a lot to the team room,” Donald told the Beyond the Clubhouse podcast. “I think he’s a great energy, he absolutely loved the experience of Whistling Straits despite the result, which I think shows a lot.

“Obviously, winning is important, but he enjoyed what the Ryder Cup is about. It’s coming together as a team unit. He’s someone that loves having people around them, sharing stories, all that kind of thing, a little bit like Sergio (Garcia).”

As for Lowry’s form, Donald had no worries and was pleased to see him show “commitment” by heading to Prague to try and make the team on merit – things might have changed now.

“On his game, actually, it fell off a little bit three or four months ago, struggling a little bit on the greens,” Donald said. “Steadily, he’s been a lot better. He’s starting to play some really good golf. He’s had some good performances in the Majors. Again, I’ve played quite a few practice rounds with him in tournaments and his game looks really solid to be honest. I wouldn’t have any worries about where he is with this game and I think he’s in a good spot.”

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