Shane Lowry dismissed his Accenture Match Play win over world No 1 Rory McIlroy and insisted he must put the blinkers on if he’s to move up to the next level and show the world how he can really play.
The Clara star will have another chance to send his career rocketing into US orbit when he plays on a sponsor’s invite alongside McIlroy in next week’s Shell Houston Open on the PGA Tour.
But as he announced details of a new sponsorship deal with Dublin-based financial spread trading firm Shelbourne Markets, Lowry explained that he will only reap the dividends by putting his head down and getting back to basics.
Lowry said: “I don’t feel I played well over there at all. Obviously I’d a great time in the States and I love it over there, but I wasn’t too happy when I came home. I almost feel like I’ve been getting a lot of pats on the back for not doing much.
“I know I beat Rory and Carl Pettersson but other than that, I don’t feel like I’ve played well this year. So I think it’s time to get back to reality, back to doing what I do best and playing golf.”
Lowry went to the US hoping to blast his way into the world’s top 50 and qualify for the Masters but admits he was probably “psyched out” by more experienced stablemate Graeme McDowell in the third round in Tucson. In the end his US trip fizzled out somewhat when he failed to qualify for the Honda Classic and then missed the cut comfortably in the Puerto Rico Open.
He has unfinished business but his first objective is simply to play his own game, improve his iron play and let the world rankings look after themselves.
“Everyone is praising me for beating Rory but at the end of the day I didn’t play great against him,” the affable Offaly man said. “I played good against Carl Pettersson. I think that’s the only really good round of golf I’ve played so far this year. I’ve a lot to improve on.”
While he can still make the top 50 and qualify for the Masters with a big week in Houston, the world No 67 has decided to put the world rankings out of his mind and concentrate on simply doing things the Shane Lowry way.
Convinced he has the ingredients to make it Stateside, Lowry said: “The way I play, I worry about my next game of golf, which is tomorrow with the lads as opposed to trying to set goals and getting into the top-50 and specific things.
“It’s hard not to try too hard when you’re so close and trying to get there.
“If you look back over the last few years, I tried too hard at first to make cuts, didn’t make them and then learned how to do it.
“Then I tried too hard to do well, didn’t do well. Tried too hard to win, then relaxed and won. This is just another step in my career.”
Making the world’s top 50 would make the American Dream and the game’s biggest events a reality for the two-time European Tour winner.
But Lowry is prepared to be patient, insisting: “Hopefully, I can get in there at some stage yet I’m trying not think about it. I’ve actually banned myself from looking at the world rankings.
“I don’t even know where I am in the world at the minute. I’ve spent the last five months since I won in Portugal looking at them. Every Monday morning at nine o’clock – I mean, what’s the point.
“I’m back to the Shane Lowry way. Go and play my golf and see where I end up on Sunday evening.
“There’s lots of distractions, like even next week, where a Top-10 would get me into the following week. Sure if I finish 11th it’ll still be a good week.”
Losing to McDowell in the third round in Arizona was a wake up call for Lowry, who realised that there is still work to be done before he is playing at the required level to make the move to the US on automatic pilot.
“Graeme was quite tough to play against,” he explained. “I think he psyched me out a bit. He’s obviously a great match player and knows what he’s doing. He won the battle that day.
“I’m very good friends with Graeme … there wasn’t any chat at all. It took me by surprise because the first couple of days, there was chat for the first couple of holes and then obviously you’d get down to the business end of things.
“He holed a couple of bombs on the front nine, I missed a couple of short ones so that was the match over really.”
The early season schedule on the European Tour is a poor one for players ranked outside the top 50 in the world and while Lowry is attracted by the US, he is not turning his back on the his home tour.
“I’m not dissing the European Tour and I’m not saying I don’t want to play on the European Tour – I love playing in Europe and that’s where all my friends are.
“I just think the US Tour, the ranking points are better, which is huge. Obviously the money’s better over there. The way of life over there is almost easier, the travelling and all that sort of stuff.
“The main thing is it actually suits my game over there and I really want to give it a shot. Obviously, I’ve got a couple of invites and have to do well.
“I think the American game is suited to good drivers of the ball, good wedge players and a good short game. They are the two strongest parts of my game. If I keep working on my iron play and try to progress a little with that, I think I could do well over there.”
Lowry can secure his place in the Valero Texas Open the week before Augusta with a top-10 finish in Houston but he has already lined up another sponsor’s invite for the Zurich Classic of New Orleans.
“I met (my caddie) Dermot (Byrne) for breakfast today and this year has been so stop-start it’s just annoying. But that’s the way it’s had to be with the invites.
“Like, I’m playing next week. Don’t know whether I’m playing the following week or not. Obviously if I’ve a top-10 in Houston, I will be so that’s up to myself. That’s the way it’s been for most of the year. But after next week, depending on what I do, my schedule is lined-out for me.
“If I don’t get in the Masters I’m playing the Spanish Open; back for the Zurich Classic followed by the Volvo Match Play and Wentworth.
“I’m really looking forward to the summer. It’s quite exciting. If I get into the US Open it’s going to be a great schedule because I’ve got Irish Open, French Open Scottish Open, British Open, the Bridgestone Invitational, the US PGA, all of them massive tournaments. That’s where I feel I can perform my best.
“I’d love to try and cement my place in that top-50. Obviously I’d love to get another win or get in contention again. I’m quite optimistic about it all.”
Lightly raced so far this year - he’s played just five events in 10 weeks - Lowry is keeping his fingers crossed that he will be fresher for the meat of the season.
“I haven’t played that much so I’m very hungry at the moment, which is good. Sometimes you feel you’ve got to play loads at the start of the year because you haven’t played in a while but it turns out to be a long year then. Now I think I’ll be fresh come mid to late summer.”
A big summer could make the top 50 a formality for the Clara man but he knows he has to stick to the mantra he made his own before Christmas and simply play golf and let the rankings look after themselves.
Still, the world’s top 50 has a siren call that’s hard to resist.
“It’s the place to be because the European Tour is not very strong at the minute, especially on either side of the summer. If you’re top 50 in the world, you’ve got a great schedule and a great chance to do well. If you’re top-50 and play decent golf I’d almost say it’s hard to fall out of it. Hopefully, I can get in there at some stage.”
For now it’s back to playing the Shane Lowry way. Hit the ball, find it and hit it again.
If the sums add up, Lowry knows he’ll be near the top of the class before long.