Ryder Cup? Rory's European crown? Lowry wants it all: "It’s time I stepped up to the plate”

Shane Lowry speaks to reporters at Croke Park. He's got big plans for the next 12 months.

An Offaly man might win the Race to Dubai, a Major or a Ryder Cup cap before the Faithful County claims another All Ireland title.

At least, that’s possibly what’s going through the mind the county's favourite golfing son, Shane Lowry, as he begins to believe that he’s now one of the greatest players on the planet.

It took victory in the WGC-Bridgestone Invitational in Akron in August for the 28-year old from Clara to have true faith in himself. But now that he’s unleashed the beast, you get the feeling that there’s nothing he can’t do, no goal he believes is out of reach over the next few years.

Not that he’s going to tell you that straight out in Croke Park of all places. After all, this is a GAA man to the core and big predictions never go down well under that code. 

Still, he says enough.

There’s no doubt, for instance, that with four European Tour events remaining before he signs off for the year at the Nedbank Golf Challenge, the three-time tour winner wants to win a few times and give Rory McIlroy a rattle in the Race to Dubai.

“You’re putting words in my mouth,” he says in a suite in the Cusack Stand..”But yeah..…”

Is it possible to overhaul Rory?

“Well I am half a million behind Rory and I don’t know what tournaments he’s playing in. But yeah, I am up for having a crack at it in Dubai. The goal would be to be at the DP World Championship (the fourth Final Series event) with a chance to win the Race to Dubai, if I win the tournament.” 

If he can do that, or even come close, he will also have moved closer to the world’s Top 10 and a Ryder Cup debut under Darren Clarke.

And with his PGA Tour card safely tucked under his wing, he’s going to try and win a place in Clarke’s team via the World Points List rather than the European Points List next year. 

While he may kick off the 2016 season in the EurAsia Cup in Malaysia, Lowry will play in the PGA Tour exclusively until the Irish Open in May, making his debut in the Farmers Insurance Open at Torrey Pines at the end of January.

He was speaking at  the launch of plans to build a new €2.25m Centre of Excellence for Gaelic games in Offaly dubbed “The Faithful Fields.”  And in a sense, the GAA project that is unveiled mirrors his own life in many ways. 

He plans to help organiser a fundraiser — Esker Hills was mentioned as a possible venue — that he insists must generate over €100,000 towards the €750,000 the county still needs to pay for a centre that will comprise four floodlit, full-sized training pitches, a complex of six modern dressing rooms, a meeting room/dining area and a weights/circuit training room as well as  a 1.1 kilometre walkway that will also be available for use by the wider community. 

Preparation, as every good sportsman knows, is key these days.

“I was asked if there was anything I could do to help. So we are in the very early stages, we have a couple of ideas to do something big, We are not talking about something that is going to raise €20,000 or €30,000. We want to raise over €100,000. That's the only way I will do it. 

“Everyone in Ireland knows my love for GAA and my love for Offaly and my home town Clara. Anything I can do to help out, I will do my best.”

Without the best facilities, it’s impossible to compete, as Lowry himself knows. 

“How good might I be if I had nowhere good to practice or nowhere good to go?" he asks. "How good might I be if I didn’t do the things that I need to be where I am?

“If you don’t do everything right, you don’t know where you will be. This is obviously a big start if everything goes right and they get it built properly and it comes together well and players come to train. Preparation is everything in sport, especially where you are a high intensity sport. 

Offaly players deserve the best

“In golf you can get away with not doing it at 100 percent, but will be found out at a certain stage. In GAA you need every percent you can get to succeed at the top level

“The players deserve to have the same facilities as the Dubs have. Well, not the same at the top counties perhaps, but something similar. If I went onto a practice ground in the morning and Tiger Woods and Rory McIlroy were over on a different one, I’d wonder what was going on there. Why am I not allowed on that one?”

Lowry’s assiduous preparation is beginning to pay dividends and he’s a career best fourth in the Race to Dubai with €2,455,749 from 14 starts — €556,251 behind McIlroy with purses totalling €30.5m up for grabs starting with the Turkish Airlines Open in a fortnight.

Winning again is the goal and an he reveals the thad he started anywhere bar Carnoustie (or Car-nasty) he might have won the Alfred Dunhill Links after a six-week break. 

While he was clearly gutted not to hole a putt and only lose out to young Matt Fitzpatrick in the British Masters at Woburn on Sunday, he was also secretly thrilled that he could miss virtually every putt he looked at still come close to adding to this WGC-Bridgestone Invitational win.

“Yeah I had six weeks off and came back and enjoyed my six weeks a little too much,” he said.  “It’s hard not to after winning a tournament like that. But towards the end of it, I refocussed myself went to the Dunhill and felt like I could win.

“I wasn’t too happy when I saw I was at Carnoustie the first day. I just struggled that day but after that I was fine, shot 14 under the next three days and went to the British Masters feeling so confident. 

“I played nine holes on Tuesday and I didn't miss a shot. And I was speaking to my manager Conor [Ridge] on the phone in that evening, and I said ‘I think I am going to win this week.’ I’d never said that before. But I feel like I should have won.”

Disappointed as he was not to win or hole many putts, Lowry confessed as we looked out over Croke Park that he’d recorded the action and noticed a flaw in his set up.

That’s history now and he’s still playing brilliantly. 

“I have definitely kicked on”

How often does a sportsman feel bulletproof heading into the crucial stage of a season? Not often.

“I have definitely kicked on,” he concedes. “There are times when golf comes easy and times when golf is hard. At the minute, it feels like the game is easy and I juts need to make sure I don’t get complacent and keep working, keep going to see [strength and conditioning coach] Robbie (Cannon) and [swing coach] Neil Manchip.”

The Ryder Cup is high on his list of priorities. But as he well knows, winning team honours or qualifying for the Olympic team is merely a by-product of doing the basics right and getting results.

“Obviously made a decent chunk towards it last week,” he said of his move to fifth in the Ryder Cup European Points and 11th in the World Points lists. “There is something in my head that I am not going to say but there is a goal I ant to achieve before the end of the year and I feel like I can. If I can achieve that I’ll be quite a ways towards Ryder Cup. 

“I did my schedule yesterday. I am playing in America until the Irish Open, that’s the first time I am back — then I am just playing the bigger events in Europe. 

“I would hope to make the Ryder Cup on the world points list. Thats’s the way I am looking  at it now. If I am close to making it on the other list, I might change my schedule a little bit to try to make it in that. I will just have to see. 

“The Ryder Cup is massive goal but it is not the be all and end all for next year. I just need to keep going what I am doing.  I am playing in big enough tournaments that if  I can keep playing the way I am and keep doing what I am doing, I feel I can make that team and kick on up the world rankings.  

“It’s the next step, isn’t it. I am a European golfer, I have won three times. I am 28 years of age — 29 next year when the Ryder Cup is on. So I think it’s time I stepped up to the plate. I feel it’s time.”

Jason Day didn’t start winning regularly until he claimed the WGC-Accenture Match Play last year.  

Don't rule out Pádraig for Rio

Lowry would love to have a year like Day’s 2015 in 2016 but while that’s a big ask, he’s certainly not lacking in confidence these days.

“I definitely have some self belief. There is no point in saying I haven’t. It will just be interesting to see how the rest of the year goes. I feel like I am doing everything I want to do right. I feel like I prepared myself well and if I keep doing that, I think it will be hard to top this year

“It’s been a great year. I won a WGC, I’m fourth in the Race to Dubai and depending on where I finish in the Race to Dubai, it will he hard to top next year unless i make the Ryder Cup I suppose., 

“Compete in the majors is the next thing I want to do. I am not necessarily setting my schedule around competing  majors, but I know that when I do get to majors, I really want to compete in them.”

As for the Olympics in Rio, he’s still odds on to join McIlroy in Brazil but doesn’t rule out Pádraig Harrington. 

“I am not definitely in the team yet. It is going to take some more good golf. From spending a lot of time with Pádraig, he’d definitely love to be on that team  and we all know with Padraig that he is only ever one week away from winning a major or something. 

“He’s never too far away. So yes, I want to go to Rio. I think it will be an amazing experience. Everyone knows how Irish I am and how patriotic I am so to go there and walk out in the opening ceremony with the Irish ream woudl be pretty good.”

A bit like Lowry.