Shane Lowry: "A lot of people would be happy with that as a good year"

Shane Lowry: "A lot of people would be happy with that as a good year"
 Shane Lowry

Shane Lowry

Shane Lowry will forever remember 2016 as the year he got married and then learned he will become a father five weeks before the 2017 Masters.

In other words, he knows he could be heading to Augusta National as a dad and, who knows, he may be the new Danny Willett — a dad and a major winner by Easter.

If he wasn’t a glass half full kind of guy, he’d still be beating himself up a bit more for having had just two top 10s in 24 starts in 2016, He could torture himself a little longer for losing a four-shot lead in the final round of the US Open, for falling from 21st to 43rd in the world and for failing to make the Ryder Cup team.

In truth, the time for self-flagellation is well a truly past now and when he looks back on 2016, the 29-year old from Clara in Co Offaly sees lots of good stuff that gives him hope that 2017 could be the big one, the year that ultimately defines him as a golfer.

If it isn’t, he’s still got plenty more golf ahead. Having ended the US campaign ranked 87th in the FedEx Cup and 30th in the Race to Dubai and banked more than $2m (€1.9m) in tournament winnings alone. So he was hardly devastated as he sat down to reflect on his year.

“It hasn’t been a great year but it hasn’t been the worst year either,” he said. “So if that’s your bad year, you are doing okay. A lot of people would be happy with that as a good year. I think it just shows the level I feel I am at and the standard I set for myself.”

Lowry does ruefully admit that he was almost wishing 2016 away as early as the end of the Ryder Cup campaign.

“Yeah, I was a bit.” he confessed. But if you think it was solely because he had the US Open title snatched from his grasp, you’re only half right. At least, that’s how Lowry sees things.

In short, it was a year when the putts simply failed to drop and given he found himself under pressure trying to play on both sides of the Atlantic for the first time, he was mentally found wanting at times and paid the price.

Perhaps it’s all those hours he now spends with Pádraig Harrington that have persuaded Lowry a few crucial areas of his game need a little more work — his putting and his mental game — and he has already started addressing those issues.

“My game is good — as good as it’s ever been,” he said, before admitting it can still get better and must if he is to get back to where he was at the end of 2015 and establish himself as a Top 20 in the world player rather than “just” a Top 50 golfer.

“I think I got in my own way a bit over the last few months, especially trying to make that Ryder Cup team and all that. That was new and I learned from that.

“I think my game is as good as it’s been and there are certain parts of it that need to be better. That’s some of the stuff I will probably work on over the winter.

“If you look at me and Graeme (McDowell) in the World Cup, both of us did all right but we just got nothing out of it. And I just feel that’s the way it has been going. I really feel now like I’d like to reset and then move on to 2017.

“I am really looking forward to 2017. Playing on both sides of the pond is hard so you have to play well in the big tournaments. So I was very lucky with my finish in the US Open. If I didn’t do that I’d have struggled on both sides.”

Fitness? Nobody mentioned it when he won in sweltering Akron and he’s fitter now.

Mental game? Sports psychologist Gerry Hussey is already in his corner but it’s the putter that needs to behave if he’s to be a contender again in 2017.

Putting? Check. He’s on the case.

Three successive three-putts on the back nine killed Lowry’s US Open challenge in the end but the putter was a fickle friend all year, not just in Pittsburgh, where he finished tied second to ultimately rescue his year.

“Yeah, the short stick,” said Lowry, who has changed from left hand low to the conventional grip. “If you hole more putts, you are going to do better. It’s as simple as that.

“I will learn a lot from the US Open, obviously. I set high enough standards for myself and to only have two top 10s in a season is poor. But there was a lot of new stuff.

“I took on a lot last year — going to America and playing in Europe as well; I got married; trying to make the Ryder Cup team. It is difficult. I probably took on a bit too much.

“If I was doing it again, I would probably do something differently and maybe things might have been different. I don’t know what. But 2016 is behind me and I am looking forward to 2017 now.”

Lowry plans to play even more on the PGA Tour in 2017, starting with four events in a row from the Farmers Insurance at Torrey Pines at the end of January, returning for the birth of his first child before eventually heading back for the WGC Dell Match Play and the Masters.

If he skips the BMW PGA at Wentworth, which appears possible, he may not play in Europe until July’s Irish Open at Portstewart.

And given it’s the first event of the links swing that will take the European Tour from the Irish Open to The Open via the Scottish Open, Lowry might have to take a week off in the middle.

“Three weeks of links golf is tough. If the weather is fine, it’s grand. But a couple of tough days can really take it out of you. Then you are going to The Open tired and that’s something you don’t want.” he said.

It’s all about establishing himself in the US and getting back to the level that saw him break through to win the WGC-Bridgestone Invitational at Firestone in August 2015.

Determined to play a little more Stateside simply because the competition is so fierce, he said: “You giving an advantage to guys like Patrick Reed, who are playing 20 tournaments a year and I am trying to do as well as them in the FedEx Cup playing 15.

“You can’t do it. So that’s my reason behind it and I am looking forward to it.”

With “just” three wins — the 2009 Irish Open as an amateur, the 2012 Portugal Masters and that stunning WGC win in Akron last year — Lowry knows that nothing feels better than that winner’s enclosure.

And if his fourth win happens to come in a major, all the better. “I am not putting myself under any pressure,” he said.

“I’d like to win another tournament and obviously I’d love it to be a major.

“Personally, I don’t think you can peak for a tournament though I know the top players say you can and they try.

“But I prefer to play as good as I can week after week. So I’ll try to contend in a few tournaments next year, try to get another win under my belt as soon as I can. That’s one of my main goals.”