Shane Lowry is keeping his fingers crossed that his world rankings obsession hasn’t cost him the chance to face the likes of Rory McIlroy or Tiger Woods in this month’s WGC-Accenture Match Play.
And that’s why he’s planning to see the mental coach that helps the Irish rugby squad so he can regain his mojo for what promises to be a sellout Irish Open in his back garden at Carton House from June 27-30.
The Clara star, 25, confessed that he became so distracted by chasing a place the world’s top 50 and a Masters debut in his first three starts of the year that he’s tried too hard, missed his last two cuts, and fallen from 54th to 64th in the world.
He’s in danger of missing the megabucks World Golf Championship in Tucson in two weeks as a result, but he was refreshingly honest about his woes.
“I am not going to lie to you, thinking about my ranking has affected my play,” confessed Lowry, who is the touring professional for Carton House, where he lives overlooking the O’Meara Course. “And it has in the past as well. It’s looking like I may just miss out on the matchplay or I might scrape in.
“If I do scrape in it looks like I am going to get quite an exciting draw [against Rory or Tiger]. I will just have to wait and see how the weekend goes and see where I stand on Monday. I’ve been putting a lot of pressure on myself, especially that first week in Durban.
“I was using it as a warm up week for Abu Dhabi and Dubai and did a lot better than I thought (finishing tied for ninth). Then I tried too hard to do well in Abu Dhabi and put too much time and energy into the practice rounds and practicing and tried too hard.
“I tried too hard not to miss cuts and that’s exactly what I did. And I have done it in the past. I’ve tried too hard before to sneak inside the top 100 for the US PGA, but I will learn.
“After missing the cut in Abu Dhabi, I stayed in Dubai and I don’t think I have ever practiced as much and I just put too much pressure on myself. I will learn from that and hopefully it will stand me in good stead further down the line.”
Part of Lowry’s charm is the happy-go-lucky, uncomplicated attitude that helped him win the Irish Open as an amateur at County Louth in 2009 and then take last October’s Portugal Masters when an average season was threathening to fizzle out.
He’s not obsessed with technique, refuses to hit the gym and reckons he is good enough to compete at the very highest level if he plays his A game.
Asked if he was more like Bubba Watson, who refuses to use a coach, than master tinkerer Pádraig Harrington, Lowry said: “I wouldn’t say I am Bubba, but I am not like Pádraig. He works a lot on his swing and tecnhinque I am, ‘Go out, hit the ball and find it again.’ And if you don’t find it, hit another one.”
Lowry’s laid back attitude has served him well so far but with the stakes rising all the time, he’s finding it difficult to remain uncomplicated.
“I didn’t even play a practice round before I won in Portugal,” he said. “When I do get in my own way like that I do put pressure on myself. That’s the thing about golf, you have to find that happy medium between trying too hard and not doing enough…
“I am not very technically minded and wouldn’t be a very good golf coach. The work I do with Neil Manchip is quite simple and if I can stay with Neil and keep going the way I am going now, I think I will be fine. The golf I played towards the end of the year was good enough to compete in any tournament in the year. If we can replicate that for a few weeks every year, we will be doing alright.”
If results go against him in Johannesburg and Pebble Beach this week, it’s possible but not likely that Lowry could be bumped out of the world’s top 64 who qualify for Tucson when the rankings are updated on Monday.
He’s projected to remain at 64th providing one of several players below him do not have stellar weeks. Even if one or two players pass him, withdrawals from Tucson look likely - Phil Mickelson for one is almost certain to pull out - and so he should be all but guaranteed his Accenture debut.
It could be a case of out of the frying pan into the fire as the 64th seed with play world No 1 McIlroy and the 63rd man in the field set to take on 14-time major winner Woods.
But while Lowry hasn’t played a matchplay event since he lost to David Corsby in the final of the 2009 West of Ireland Championship at Rosses Point, he knows he’ll have nothing to lose against one of the top players in the world.
“I’ve played foursomes with Rory for Ireland as an amateur but I’ve never played against him,” Lowry said. “It would be quite exciting if I get him, or it could even be Tiger. But matchplay is funny.
“I think Graeme [McDowell] was six or seven under in the first round last year and was home in Orlando at 4 o’clock on Wednesday evening. You have to go out and make as many birdies as you can and if I am playing in the tournament it is going to be against Rory or Tiger and I am going to have to make plenty of birdies. But I will have nothing to lose.”
If his trip to Arizona doesn’t work out he knows he’ll get another chance to put one over on McIlroy by chasing second Irish Open title following his sensational win at Baltray as an amateur in 2009.
He said: “The Irish Open was the kick start of my career in 2009 and I remember coming here to Carton to watch the Irish Open in 2005 and 2006.
“This area of the country has been deprived of top professional golf since then and it is great to see the Irish Open coming here.
“Since the last time it was in the Dublin area, Irish golf has won seven majors, seen Rory go to world No 1 and now we have the Ryder Cup captain in Paul McGinley too.
“I would quite fancy my chances here. I’ve lived on the O’Meara Course at Carton for 18 months and practiced here a lot before that so I know the Montgomerie course quite well.
“I think it will give me an advantage but also a bit of added pressure as well, but that’s up to me to deal with.”
Record crowds packed Royal Portrush last year and the European Tour revealed yesterday that thanks to the ‘Rory factor’ advance ticket sales are already up on the total sales for Carton House in 2006.
Lowry said: “Obviously Portrush was unbelievable last year and the players loved every but if it. I think it would be great to try and get everyone behind us and try and make Carton House as big and maybe even better than Portrush was.
“We have the No 1 golfer in the world and there is no reason why people won’t buy their tickets and come out. It’s not often you get the chance to see the world No 1 in a sport do his stuff.”
The Tour is toying with the idea of copying the stadium par-three 16th at the recent Phoenix Open and turning the 17th at the Monty Course into a fan zone with up to 5,000 seats looping the left side and the back of the green.
The problem is that installing the seats alone would cost upwards fo Stg£50,000 and a sponsor would be required to brand cover the expense.
And Lowry reckons he’ll be flying come June once he sits down with former Armagh footballer and life coach Enda McNulty to get his head straightened out.
He said: “It’s more like a talk than psychology. Enda is here working with the IRFU and he’s someone I can open up with and speak to about everything.
“I saw him not too long before I won in Portugal last year and I believe that helped me get in the right frame of mind for the rest of the season.”
McNulty has helped the Irish rugby team in the past and Lowry was on hand yesterday to give some of Ireland’s Six Nations heroes some golfing advice before they take on England on Sunday.
He’s a big rugby fan and gave the players some tips during a previous squad session at Carton House - with hilarious results.
“I do this trick where I flick the ball up and hit it like a ‘hurl’,” he said with a grin. “Sean O’Brien tried it but being from Carlow he’s not much good with that and he broke Mick Kearney’s driver!”
An advance season ticket for all four days can be bought for €70, a saving and €10 on admission at the gate. Adult day tickets are priced at €30 pre-event, and €35 on the gate. Concessions are available at €50 for a season (€60 on the gate) and €20 for any one day (€25 on the gate).
Under-16s accompanied by an adult are admitted free of charge and all car parking is also free. Reserved grandstand seating can also be purchased immediately for Thursday, Friday and Saturday (€10) and the Sunday (€15) of the event.
Additionally, as part of the Irish Open ticket campaign, fans of golf and horse racing can enjoy both sports on the same day – Saturday, June 29 – by purchasing a specially priced ‘Irish Double’ ticket to enjoy the third round of the Irish Open and the Dubai Duty Free Irish Derby Day for a combined price of €50.
Corporate Hospitality packages are also available with prices ranging from €245 to €295 (plus VAT). For all enquiries please contact Joanne in CSL Hospitality on 01 676 6650 or firstname.lastname@example.org For further information please visit www.cslhospitality.ie
Full ticket information can be found at: www.europeantour.com/tickets or telephone Ticket Hotline: +440800 023 2557. Irish callers can phone: 1890 252 698. Postal enquiries should be sent to: European Tour Tickets, Mirren Court Three, 123 Renfrew Court Three, Paisley, PA3 4EA.