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Abu Dhabi, UAETuesday 9 March 2021

Shane Lowry: British Open champion heads to Saudi International with Ryder Cup front of his mind

Irish major winner talks about his ambitions to represent Team Europe at Whistling Straits and testing himself against a stacked field this week in King Abdullah Economic City

Shane Lowry made his Saudi International debut last year and finished tied 13th. Getty Images
Shane Lowry made his Saudi International debut last year and finished tied 13th. Getty Images

As if his motivation to make Europe’s Ryder Cup team was not already high, it was during some downtime through the Christmas break where it again hit home to Shane Lowry.

“It’s funny, I was just chilling in my house and I watched the Miracle at Medinah,” Lowry says, in reference to Europe’s famous comeback against the United States in 2012. “When you watch what went on there, and how much fun the lads had together, stuff like that spurs me on even more to get up early in the morning and work hard and get out there and go and make that team.”

Three Ryder Cups have been and gone since, but Lowry has yet to play in one. He was close in 2016, although his form stalled in the lead-up to Hazeltine and captain Darren Clarke opted as his three picks for Lee Westwood, Martin Kaymer and Thomas Pieters.

This time, Padraig Harrington sits at the helm as Europe attempt to retain the trophy at the postponed meet at Whistling Straits in September. Fellow Irishmen, Lowry and the three-time major champion are close friends off the course, although the former is determined to qualify outright this time.

Lowry has made no secret of this desire to add the Ryder Cup to a CV highlighted by a major title – the 2019 Open – and a WGC crown, among his five professional victories.

A debut appearance features high on his list of priorities for 2021.

“It’s up there,” Lowry says. “I’ve not been shy about saying it. Everyone knows I haven’t played in a Ryder Cup yet and I really want to do it. Not only do I want to do it, I feel I can add to the team, that I could bring something there, especially in the team room. I get on with most people very well.

“And not only do you want to make the team, but you want to go there and win the thing. That’s the way I look at it: not only do I want to make the team, but I want to go to America and bring that trophy back.

“Everyone knows Padraig is one of my best friends out here, so to be able to do that for him would be amazing too. Because, with the career he’s had, he’s arguably one of the best sportsmen that our country has ever seen. No one deserves it more than him.”

Lowry began his season in the UAE two weeks ago, but the 2019 Abu Dhabi HSBC Championship winner missed the cut in the capital despite not being overly dissatisfied with his play.

He responded with a better showing at the Omega Dubai Desert Classic, finishing on Sunday in a tied for 27th, and now tackles this week’s Saudi International powered by Softbank Investment Advisers knowing his game is moving in the right direction.

Lowry, 33, enjoyed his debut there last year – the tournament’s second edition – impressed by the Royal Greens Golf and Country Club course, the facilities in King Abdullah Economic City and the reception he received. He was tied-13th.

Before the tournament, Lowry played a practice round with young Saudi Saud Al Sharif, harking back to the days when as an amateur he would be lucky enough to pick the brains of the likes of Harrington or Rory McIlroy.

Shane Lowry during a practice round last year with Saudi amateur Saud Al Sharif. Courtesy Golf Saudi
Shane Lowry during a practice round last year with Saudi amateur Saud Al Sharif. Courtesy Golf Saudi

“I don’t really see myself as a role model,” he says. “Obviously I try and do as best I can and portray myself as best I can. I just see myself as another player and go about my business, but to actually have people look up to you and want to learn from you is pretty cool as well. When you get to play with better players you become a better player.”

The same could be said for Lowry this week, despite his impressive achievements to date. The field in Saudi is stacked, with world No 1 Dustin Johnson at its head, and four of the world’s top 10 competing in all. Johnson won the inaugural event, in 2019, and was runner-up last year.

So plenty of world ranking points up for grabs. And in a Ryder Cup year, too.

“Every week you come out here, no matter what week, you’re playing against a top-class field,” says Lowry, the world No 37. “But this week more so than anywhere.

“At the end of the year every shot counts towards something, so you want to go out there and put yourself up against the best players in the world, and this is a great week to do that.

“Hopefully I can get myself in some sort of contention going down the stretch. And if it’s against one of the best players in the world, that’d be great too.”

Like last year, Lowry landed in Saudi without the Claret Jug. Secured in stunning fashion at Royal Portrush in Northern Ireland two summers ago, he is yet to defend his crown after the pandemic forced golf’s oldest major to be cancelled last July.

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Shane Lowry's British Open triumph - in pictures

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Since Lowry remains the reigning champion, the Claret Jug remains in his possession – sort of.

“It’s tricky, when you’re going from place to place, it’s a big suitcase – I never thought I’d be complaining about this – but it’s a big piece of luggage to get round,” he says.

“It’s amazing and mad to think that I’m still actually holding the main one and the tournament hasn’t been played yet. Because it feels like so long ago since I won it.

“It’s in Ireland. I miss it. I think I’ll get it brought over to America in a couple weeks, just to have it for the last few months. And then hopefully when I get to Royal St George’s I’m giving it back but only for a few days.”

Hold onto it beyond July, and Lowry would surely be able to show it off in Wisconsin in September.

The Ryder Cup sits prominently on his to-do list, but it’s not the sole reason he describes his motivation as stronger than ever.

“I think when you grow up and mature a little bit more, you see what you’re actually doing,” Lowry says. “And I feel I’m in the middle of creating quite a decent career for myself and I’m very motivated to go on and add to the trophies that I’ve won.

“Hopefully go on to win bigger tournaments, more so for my family and friends. To see what Portrush did for those people was pretty cool, and I’d love to be able to do that again.

“Even now over the next few months, when you see the struggles people are having at home, I’d love to be able to give them something to watch on TV and something to cheer about. That’s where my motivation is at the minute.

“I do feel more motivated than ever. Not that I’ve ever not been motivated - I’ve always been very competitive and determined to be the best that I can be.

“But, when you grow up and have a family and start looking at that, and you realise the life you can give them, that motivates you every day to get out of bed and go to work.”

Published: February 3, 2021 12:29 PM

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