Fowler's timing impeccable as Lowry and Co find Major confidence

Rickie Fowler with the Aberdeen Asset Management Scottish Open. Picture: Getty Images

Rickie Fowler claimed the title in dramatic fashion with a tap-in birdie at the last but Shane Lowry was almost as euphoric about his form despite finishing seven shots behind the American in the Aberdeen Asset Management Scottish Open at Gullane.

The 28-year old Offaly man tied for 31st with Graeme McDowell on five under after following a brace of 66s with weekend rounds of 72 and 71.

Yes, Lowry is still desperate to end his three-year title drought but he’s not ruling out making a run for glory at the Home of Golf.

“I am pretty happy, I am definitely not going (to St Andrews) with no confidence,” Lowry said. “I am quite confident, I am playing well. I hit some great shots in the wind and in the crosswind.”

The Clara man backed into 10th in The Open last year with a closing 65 and had grown so much in confidence that he was disappointed to finish only joint ninth in last month’s US Open at Chambers Bay.

“I am very excited,” Lowry said as he got ready to make the 77-mile drive from Gullane to the Old Course Hotel in St Andrews. “I said to [my caddie] Dermo, walking around there, I am looking forward to getting there this evening.”

He won’t staying with his Dad Brendan, who has rented a house.

“The Lowrys? There are a few coming,’ he beamed. “My dad has a house so God knows how many are in there....I am in the Old Course Hotel, slumming it.
“I am excited. It’s one of those weeks where you don’t mind getting there on a Sunday evening. The Majors —  Augusta, the US Open — they are always very exciting. I am just really looking forward to it.  

“I do think I have got a chance, so we will see.”

Lowry won’t overdo things over the first three days in St Andrews, which is playing soft and long.

“I’ll probably just play nine holes each day, and see how it goes from there," he said. “It will be familiar anyway, I am sure it will get firmish, you never know what is going to happen, it is definitely not like a few years ago."

He's certainly not planning on taking a softly softly approach, despite the fact that it's a major.

“I don’t think patience is the key in St Andrews, scoring is going to be alright, so if you go out with the mentality of being patient all of a sudden you find yourself level par through 15 and the leader is five or six under,  so you need to be cautiously aggressive I suppose in tournaments like the Open. You have to be aggressive where you know you can be, and I know the course well enough that I know how to play it.

"You need to par a few holes like the 17th and the fourth and a few others, and the rest of the holes, if you put it in position off the tee, you have got a chance.”

Lowry is patiently waiting for his day to come, however, and while he's not making any bold claims, there’s no reason why it can’t come in The Open.

“I think even though I am going to finish something like 30th this week, I feel I was knocking on the door again,” he said.

“I had a chat with Dermot coming down the last, just keep knocking on that door eventually, hopefully, I will make three or four birdies in a row and all of a sudden I will be standing there on the 18th green a happy man. 

“I need to be patient, not next week, but with my whole golf at the minute, let it happen and wait for it to happen.”

The opening tee shot at the Old Course gives you plenty of room for error but Lowry admits he’ll still be nervous. 

“The only thing is if you hit it out of bounds you’d feel like a bigger t**l than you would at Augusta,” he joked. “The thing is, when you are used to it, I have played in a few Opens now and played in St Andrews quite a lot.

"You get butterflies no matter when you play the first. Hopefully it will be a little three iron or two iron down there on Thursday.”

McDowell also shot a 71 to finish on five under but after going through a rough patch, the Portrush man feels he turned the corner at Gullane.

“Not bad, good couple of days just got tough going into the weekend, didn’t score very well yesterday especially,” McDowell said. “Some positives to take away, hit the ball very well, Thursday and Friday, especially.

"Didn’t hole a lot of putts even though I thought I putted well. The greens were so good you expected to hole a few putts. All in all, a really good warm-up going into next week.

“I feel like I’m going in there quite sharp, played well, in the wind, controlled the ball. A couple of 66s was what I needed under the belt to start feeling good about myself and my games. That’s was more like it, just what I needed. Thursday, Friday is the best I’ve played this year. 

“Today I drove it better but got off to a slow start. All in all, happy with direction I’m moving.  We got no shortage of good golf coming up so it’s time to stay patient and let get good results get in the way. 

“I’d like to converted it into a Top-10 or a Top-15, but it’s no big deal.”

McDowell spoke earlier in the week of his confidence being like a cup that was once full to the brim. 

He’s spilled some, for sure, but he replenished it somewhat in Gullane.

“I put some back but there’s plenty of room for more,” he said. “That only comes from getting out there and getting your hands dirty and getting among it. 

“It was good to get out there in the business end of things again yesterday, feel the juices flowing a little bit again, put my nerve to the test. This course was a great limber up for next week.

“Shane and I feel the same way. Feel like we know the course quite well. We’ve had a really good workout there. It’s about getting the speed and the feel of the place on Monday, Tuesday and Wednesday and not over exerting energy levels. I don’t think there’s a ton to be done.”

Pádraig Harrington has nothing to prove in The Open and while he dropped four shots in a three hole stretch on his back nine, carding a 72 to finish 62nd on two under, he got what he wanted from his week at Gullane — a week of links practice ahead of his bid for a fourth major.

As for the Aberdeen Asset Management Scottish Open, nobody could deny Fowler his first European Tour win.

Marc Warren shot a six under 64 to set the target at 10 under only to be overhauled by Matt Kuchar, who posted 11 under thanks to a final round 68.

For much of the day, Fowler struggled to find his rhythm in the strong winds and cold temperatures at Gullane Golf Club, but he rose magnificently to the occasion late on with three birdies in his final four holes – including a tap-in at the last courtesy of a wonderful 109-yard wedge shot to around two feet.

A round of 68 for a 12 under par aggregate total saw him leapfrog Kuchar, leaving Raphaël Jacquelin, who playing alongside overnight leader Daniel Brooks in the last group, needing an eagle on the 72nd hole to force a play-off.

The Frenchman almost pulled off the unlikely feat when his approach stopped within a foot of the cup, .

That tap-in birdie set the seal on a level par round of 70, and his tied runner-up finish earned Jacquelin a place in next week’s Open Championship.

Brooks struggled in a round of 73, but the Englishman took ample consolation from a place at St Andrews along with Sweden’s Rickard Karlberg, who closed with a superb 64 to claim the third and final Open Championship berth.

Fowler will now be fancied to follow in Phil Mickelson's footsteps and follow his Scottish Open win with victory in The Open.

“I felt really good coming down the stretch. It was nice to be back in contention again, and I'm excited about where the game is at," Fowler said. "I have a few things we need to straighten out before Thursday, but I'm very excited about next week now.

“Probably the only thing that would be more special than this would be winning next week. But winning on a links golf course in Scotland, the Home of Golf, is a special week. I beat some pretty good players out there today.

"The guys were on top of their games. I didn't see many scores being under par with the way the wind was blowing, so it was going to be a tough test of golf. I'm definitely proud of how I finished.”