Shane Lowry and caddy Dermot Byrne in front of the Oak Hill clubhouse. Picture: Eoin Clarke www.golffile.ieShane Lowry almost chips in from the back of ninth at Oak Hill and a wide smile spreads across his face. His caddie, Dermot Byrne, smiles too.

This could get expensive for the bagman, who has a running bet with his boss that will cost one of them the price of a holiday and Lowry fancies a trip to Australia.

If Lowry chips in this week, or any other week between now and the end of the season, he’ll have met the target of 11 hole outs from off the green. In reality, it’s a win-win situation for the caddie. The better his boss plays, they more he stands to make.

In fact, he could have been forced to pay up on Sunday when Lowry chipped in for birdie at the 15th at Firestone Country Club en route to a closing 69 and a share of 48th place on seven over - a big improvement on his debut there in 2009, when he finished on 20 over.

Had Lowry putted better, he could have had finished close to level par, which was a top 20 finish. Still, there were plenty of positives to be taken before the final major of the season at Oak Hill Country Club in the US PGA.

Shane Lowry practices on the ninth green at Oak Hill earlier this week. Pic B Keogh“I played great all weekend. I missed one fairway on Saturday and didn’ t miss too many on Sunday either,” Lowry says before discussing his erratic putting in Rubber City.

“Yeah, the greens were very quick. They are definitely not as quick here [at Oak Hill]. They will get a lot faster but I cant see them getting as fast as last week. They were very tough and I struggled.

“Those five and six footers are the ones that make or break your round so you are going to leave yourself four or five of those per round for birdie or pars and they are all momentum putts. I wasn’t getting them and lost confidence on Friday but putted okay at the weekend.”

Three late birdies on Sunday boosted Lowry’s haul of cash and world ranking points though he explains that one of his birdies wasn’t a putt at all but a chip-in that almost caused an argument.

“I actually chipped in on 15,” he says loudly enough for his caddie to hear, grinning mischievously as they head off the ninth green.

“I was holding the flag, it goes down as a putt,” Byrne says, smiling.

“He won’t give it to me because I was on the green,” Lowry says. “Statistically it was a putt. I had to chip over the fringe but it counts as a putt. I don’t want (to claim) it anyway. He will only be moaning.”

He laughs at it all and turns his thoughts to how he’s going to go about his business this week. Putting, he concludes, is key.  So out goes the Firestone putter and in goes the model that won him his first European Tour event as a professional last year.

“I have gone back to the old Scotty Cameron I used to use,” he says. “It’s the one I won with in Portugal last year. It is back in the bag - a nice bit of confidence. I used a two ball in Firestone. I’ve had it for years but I go back and forth and swap it once and a while. The Scotty Cameron will be in the bag.”

Reflecting on the huge strides he’s made in the game since he won the Irish Open as an amateur in 2009, he points to his play at Firestone as telling.

“Even without putting well there, I was way more comfortable. I am way more experienced. But for a few putts here and there….”

So what now? How does he approach his second US PGA appearance just a few weeks after saying at the Open that he now knows that one day he will compete to win a major? One-shot-at-a-time theory is the only solution.

“I know it might sound not very ambitious of me but if I play four rounds this week, I might be up there with a chance. Maybe I won’t be. I’ve come into plenty of tournaments in the past where I thought I had a chance of winning or doing really well and really wanting it and it just didn’t happen.

“It’s not that I am saying that I don’t feel I can win or can contend. I just want to go out there and play my own game and get around the golf course and try to make the weekend. Get some more experience I suppose. As I said at The Open, I am only 26.

Shane Lowry’s 48 degree wedge, complete with green, white and orange paint. “I know there are plenty of people who win majors at this age - Keegan and Rory and Jason Day contending quite a bit. I am just happy to be here…and if I can chip in all the better.”

After nine holes on Monday, he played 18 with Ryder Cup skipper Paul McGinley and Rory McIlroy on Tuesday. Perhaps all three will be together at Gleneagles next year when the Ryder Cup comes back to Europe.

Has he even got any idea when the Ryder Cup points race begins?

“Dunno,” he says, smiling sheepishly. “It’s normally Switzerland but I am not playing this year. [It’s actually the SPS Handa Wales Open at The Celtic Manor Resort, the scene of Europe’s dramatic 2010 Ryder Cup victory, from August 29 – September 1]

“Yeah, (Ryder Cup) that’s up there but I need to play well the rest of the year. I think you need to be in all the big tournaments - top 50 in the world.  

“You never know. If I won early doors (in the campaign) or went to one of the four Race to Dubai events, Turkey or China, and could sneak one of those, it gives you a great chance.

“Gleneagles? I haven’t got a great record there. I play well but struggle on the greens. It’s something that I would love obviously. I think Paul will be a great captain.”

Ranked 81st in the world - he was just outside the top 50 in January - Lowry is facing an important end of season campaign.

“I’ll have a week off after this, Gleneagles, two weeks off, Holland, Italy, Dunhill Links, week off, Portugal and possibly not playing Italy. I think I have done my schedule really well this year.

“I didn’t play in France even though people said I should have. But I felt I could play really well in the other tournaments around that. I played well in Germany (T22nd), played well in Ireland (T5), played well at Wentworth (T12). I think I’ve played well in all the events I’ve played this year  and know my schedule and what I need to do. If I play a little less, it helps me focus more in doing well in those tournaments.”

A big week in Rochester could be a stepping stone to even bigger things. For now, he’s just happy to chip away. A free holiday is well worth the effort.