Lowry ready for new beginning
Graeme McDowell and Shane Lowry. Picture: Getty Images

Graeme McDowell and Shane Lowry. Picture: Getty Images

Shane Lowry begins a new chapter of his career in Scotland today with the 2016 Ryder Cup team and the quest for a major all realistic goals for the WGC-Bridgestone Invitational champion.

The 28-year old Clara man begins his Alfred Dunhill Links bid alongside Pádraig Harrington at Carnoustie today, believing he can win again and take a big step towards making Darren Clarke's European team.

"I've been able to take a few weeks off and I've enjoyed my win, and then the last few weeks I decided to get back and reassess and try to set some goals going forward," Lowry said of his six week break after he followed his Firestone win with a narrowly missed cut in the US PGA.

"When something like that happens, it's tough to get my head around. It would be easy for me to sit back the rest of the year, say I've won a massive tournament and sit back at Christmas and be happy with that.

"I'm kind of looking forward and looking to do a few more things in the next few weeks and I'm hoping to see another win hopefully and hoping to contend a few tournaments and finish at the top."

He added: "I'm sure there probably will be a little bit of rust but I've played a lot of games the last few weeks, a lot of games with a lot of friends. I've played a lot of golf which is what I do on my weeks off.

"I'm sure there is going to be a bit of rust there somewhere but I feel like I'm playing well. Feel like I've never had a break at all. But I do feel like my hunger is back, and that's kind of what I wanted to get after a few weeks off.

"Sometimes when you go through a long season and after a win like this, if you keep playing, golf can kind of catch up with you and you can get burned out. I'm hoping those weeks off will stand me not only this week but when it comes to the end of the year and The Race to Dubai and things like that."

This is Lowry's first chance to secure points some Ryder Cup and he admitted that Hazeltine, as well as a first Major Championship, is a goal.

"I felt like the last Ryder Cup probably came a year too early for me," he said. "I feel like a year later, I can make the next team and I really want to make the next team and that's probably my main goal for the next five months."

He added: "Majors are four times a year. For me, I don't see myself ever trying to tweak my game for Majors because I think that's quite hard to do. I know if I put myself in a position, I can win a Major over. I just hope I'm playing well next year, and going forward the years after.

"I do feel like I can win a Major. There's no reason why not. I won that tournament in Firestone but there's no reason I can't win a Major. I'm not saying I'm going to go out and do it next year, but if I give myself a chance I know I can."

Like Lowry and Harrington, Graeme McDowell is also hoping to hit the ground running in the Ryder Cup having finished in the pack at the Porsche European Open with a consistent but unspectacular performance.

He partners 20-time champion jockey Tony McCoy and, as usual, he's upbeat about what he admits is a "big week" for him.

"It's always an event which I enjoy, especially when the sun shines," McDowell said. "Here the weather can have a big impact on your level of enjoyment this week. Looks like we are set to have a fun one. Golf courses are in amazing shape.

"I played Carnoustie and St Andrews yesterday and I will play Kingsbarns today. A lot of dynamics going on this week. Obviously from an individual point of view, it's a big week, good money to play for, good World Ranking to play for, and it would be a good week for me to be competing. I played well here in the past and in good form here generally.

"Obviously the partnership, the amateur point of view, it's a lot of fun, as well. Playing with AP McCoy, which I'm very excited about, I think he's making his debut here at the Dunhill. It will be interesting to see how he gets on. I think the ground is good to firm out there, so It should be grand."

While it's a huge week for Peter Lawrie and Damien McGrane as they try to win enough cash to make sure they have full playing rights for 2016, it's also an historic occasion with Open hero Paul Dunne from Greystones and his Walker Cup team mate Gary Hurley making their European Tour debuts as professionals.

Dunne partners Keith Bowman while Hurley has landed rugby legend Brian O'Driscoll.

Lowry partners Gerry McManus (who has Cormac Sharvin as caddie) as Harrington tees it up with JP McManus, bidding for their third win in the event.

"I was at home last week, relaxing and practicing.  I played a game at Portmarnock GC on Friday, where Ronan and myself took on Noel Fox and Jody Fanagan," Harrington told his Facebook followers.  "We were hammered by them but it was good fun and nice to get out playing some links golf before coming over here.

"I got in on Monday evening and played nine holes at St Andrews on Tuesday and eighteen at Kingsbarns on Wednesday.  Over both days I played with Kieran McManus, Cian Foley, JP and Gerry McManus.  

"We always play and have some good competitive matches which I look forward to as much as I do the tournament.  This year we are experiencing a heatwave here - everyday so far has been like a summer's day and the forecast for the rest of the week is similar.  Everyone brought their winter woollies but it looks like we will be playing in t-shirts.

"I haven't played Carnoustie but the other two courses are in great shape.  I've hit a few balls with Pete Cowan for him to have a look over what I was doing and all is good.  I've played nicely in practice and more importantly feel good about my putting.  The work I did at home is feeling good and I am continuing with my confident attitude.  I'm really looking forward to getting started.  

"We got the dream draw this week in that we first play Carnoustie, followed by Kingsbarns and St Andrews.  We get the traveling over by Friday, but now we just need to get ourselves into contention for Sunday evening."