Lowry skips school to chase big time

Planet Lowry. Shane celebrates his second European Tour win. Photo Eoin Clarke/www.golffile.ieShane Lowry is not normally one for changing but his thrilling Portugal Masters victory has convinced him to shelve plans to tee it up in the PGA Tour Qualifying School next week and seek his place in the elite through the top 50 in the world rankings.

When the 25-year old Offaly man beat Ross Fisher by a shot at Vilamoura’s Oceanico Victoria Course to become just the second player to win on the European Tour as both an amateur and a professional his immediate reward was a cheque for €375,000 that secured his place in the season-ending, DP World Tour Championship in Dubai.

But it also came with a fistful of world ranking points and he made a huge leap yesterday, soaring 54 places to 74th.

Had he made the Top-100 two weeks ago, he would have been exempt from the first stage of the US Q-School. But his win in Portugal has catapulted him to a new level and left him on the threshold of the really big time.

By making the world’s Top 100, he automatically earned a place in next week’s 78-man, $8m BMW Masters in Shanghai. But his victory also gave him a place in the following week’s WGC-HSBC Champions at Mission Hills in China, which is another $8m limited field event, reserved almost exclusively for winners.

Add to that the $6m Barclays Singapore Open and the season-ending, $8m European Tour finale in Dubai and it’s little wonder that he has opted to play for $28m and huge world ranking points over a five-week period instead of trying to battle his way through three stages of the PGA Tour Qualifying School.

“The best route to playing regularly in the big events in the States is through the top 50 in the world and I am up to 74th now,” Lowry said yesterday. “I have four big tournaments coming up so if I can manage to play well in those and get myself into the top 50 before the end of the year, that would be the best way to do it and that’s what I’ve decided with my manager Conor Ridge.

“They are four really big, tournaments on four courses that I quite fancy. - quite wide open and long - and I think I could do well.

Shane Lowry loves the buzz of competing. Picture Eoin Clarke/www.golffile.ie“There’s no cut in the first two and hopefully if I can play well enough and get one big finish, that will get me into the top 50 or close enough and you never know what could happen in Dubai.”

Making the top 50 by Christmas would seal his place in all the Majors and World Golf Championships next year. But Lowry knows he has the early half of next season as well with the cut off for the Masters not coming until April.

Despite career earnings of €2.1m, Lowry believes his Portuguese victory justifies his decision ignore the critics who pointed to his 16st frame and his aversion to the gym as the main reasons why he had failed to enter the winner’s circle since that memorable 2009 Irish Open win.

“If you look at my career since I turned pro nearly three years and a half years ago, I feel I have improved every year which is obviously a step in the right direction,” he said.

“I do what I think is best for me and get on with it. I don’t really listen to the people who try to criticise me.

“Why would I change? Doing the things I have been doing have gotten me to 74th in the world, which I think is decent enough. And I have a good chance to do a bit better towards the end of the year. There is no reason why I should change.”

Sunday’s win has given the Clara native renewed belief his ability to compete at the very top level.

He said: “I’m over the moon to be honest to finally get my first win as a pro. It definitely took a lot longer than I thought it would take but I feel like I have the game now. It was important to get the job done under the gun yesterday.

“I got the breaks I needed at the right time. I chipped in on Saturday on 10 from a difficult position to keep the round going then holed a seven iron for eagle yesterday. You always need stuff like that to happen if you are to win.

“Those are the breaks I wasn’t getting early on in the year and in this game you just have to be patient and keep going, keep soldiering on and you will get your rewards. Thankfully I did yesterday.

“To come back in four under on the back nine on Sunday when you are in contention in tough conditions and shoot 66 with a bogey on the last, that was pretty decent golf.

“I knew I was capable of doing that but it was a question of just doing it and it was great to get over the line and get the job done because it is obviously very tough to win out here.

“I think my game is 100 times better than it was when I won at Baltray. My caddie Dermot Byrne and I have come on in leaps and bounds and my whole golfing brain is a lot better.

“I know I can get the ball around the course by doing small things every day that add up at the end of the week.”

Doing the small things well over the next month and a half could change Lowry’s life forever.

“If it works out, it works out,” Lowry said. “All I can do is try my best.”