Shane ready for new battles but admits: "There were a few tears here and there"
 Shane Lowry jokes with the US media in Akron on the eve of his WGC-Bridgestone Invitational defence

Shane Lowry jokes with the US media in Akron on the eve of his WGC-Bridgestone Invitational defence

Shane Lowry doesn’t believe in sugar coating things or tip toeing around. At the US Open, he attacked the beast of Oakmont, not from behind, but face to face, brandishing his drive like an offensive weapon.

At the time of his defeat he said the doubt over Dustin Johnson’s possible penalty stroke didn’t bother him, which sounded reasonable considering he'd dropped four shots in his first 10 holes and then leaked some more on the greens coming in.. 

On reflection he says the doubt affected him a great deal and no doubt he's right. But he’s also moving on and looking to his future with confidence even if the ghosts of that Sunday afternoon reappear in those moments when he's alone with his thoughts.

He admits he cried bitter tears in the locker room at day’s end, falling into an emotional embrace with his coach and mentor, Neil Manchip, as they came to terms with coming so close and losing out.

He has no problem admitting there have been more tears since that late evening moment — those quite moments when the subconscious won’t shut up. 

"Golf is a strange game because, you know, after finishing second in one of the biggest tournaments in the world, and you have such disappointment. It's weird. Golf is a weird game. Unless you win you're disappointed. It's strange.

"And yet a few days afterwards, there were a few tears here and there, but that's just the way I am. I'm an emotional fella, and I want to do well. I wear my heart on my sleeve, and that’s kind of the way I am."

On his decision not to make himself available for the Olympics and the threat posed by the Zika virus, it all came down to the fact that there was a risk and “if anything was to ever happen to any of my kids and it was my fault completely, I would never live with myself.”

 Shane Lowry to his shot at 13th tee going into a bunker during the final round of the 2016 U.S. Open at Oakmont Country Club in Oakmont, Pa. on Sunday, June 19, 2016. (Copyright USGA/Darren Carroll)

Shane Lowry to his shot at 13th tee going into a bunker during the final round of the 2016 U.S. Open at Oakmont Country Club in Oakmont, Pa. on Sunday, June 19, 2016. (Copyright USGA/Darren Carroll)

He’s still loathe to cut himself some slack over letting a four-shot lead go in a major, saying that others have won the first time of asking but mistakenly saying Jason Dufner and Keegan Bradley pulled it off.

("You know, Keegan Bradley didn't lose one. Jason Dufner didn't lose one. You know, there is guys that win it at their first attempt, as well.”)

Bradley won the 2011 US PGA but Dufner had a five shot lead after 15 holes and ended up losing to Bradley in a three-hole playoff before going on to win the same event at Oak Hill in 2013.

If there was a sign that Lowry is more than ready to step up and win a major and make the Ryder Cup team, it came before he even set foot in Pittsburgh. 

If anything was to ever happen to any of my kids and it was my fault completely, I would never live with myself.
— Shane Lowry on his reasons for skipping Rio

There was never a chance that he would chase double Ryder Cup points in the Open de France this week. Either he put the Ryder Cup out of his mind, or he was backing himself before the US Open to make the team and still backs himself now.

“My manager Kieron, we talked about that,” he said in his news conference before his defence of the WGC-Bridgestone Invitational. "Before the US Open he wanted to keep me entered in the French, but I said to him, no matter what happens at the US Open, I'm going to go to Firestone. Didn’t reconsider it at all. 

"Obviously I'm just outside the Ryder Cup team right now, but we've got plenty more tournaments. I’ve got Scottish next week, the Open, the PGA, and I’ve got all the FedEx, and where I'm trying to make the team is off the world points list, so they're all World Ranking events."

Naturally, most of the talk was of the US Open, here he played brilliantly to lead by four shots with 18 holes to go and held on under the cosh to give himself a chance going down the back nine on Sunday afternoon.

 Shane Lowry bites his putter after missing a par putt on the 14th hole during the final round of the 2016 U.S. Open at Oakmont Country Club in Oakmont, Pa. on Sunday, June 19, 2016. (Copyright USGA/Darren Carroll)

Shane Lowry bites his putter after missing a par putt on the 14th hole during the final round of the 2016 U.S. Open at Oakmont Country Club in Oakmont, Pa. on Sunday, June 19, 2016. (Copyright USGA/Darren Carroll)

He continues to second guess himself, wondering no doubt if he might have avoided those three putts at the 14th, 15th or 16th but hitting different clubs, or adopted a different strategy on holes like the second, or the fourth.

"The few days after the US Open were quite tough,” he said. “I had to keep myself busy because any time I was on my own, I was thinking what if had done this or if this would have happened, and I was driving myself mad. But I'm over that now, and I'm ready to get back playing.

"Obviously if I look back on the US Open, it was a great week. I led it by four shots going into the final round. I was close. I was tied for the lead or leading by one, who knows, with four holes to play or five holes to play. It was a great week. It was one of the best weeks of my career to contend in a tournament like that and probably could have easily won.

“I look back, and that would give me a lot of confidence going forward, and when I put myself in that position next time, I’ll be okay.”

When Lowry said, “I’ll be okay,” he said it with utter conviction. No doubt, there have been many heart to hearts with Manchip and his loved ones — his siblings, his parents, his pals, his management and his wife, Wendy.

“It was all negatives at the time,” he said of the immediate aftermath. "I mean, it's strange, you know, I'm not going to lie; I went into the locker room afterwards and my coach Neil was there packing up my bags for me, and we gave each other a bit of a hug. And I was in tears anyway. I think he was, as well. You know, it’s a tough situation to be in.”

 Shane Lowry wipes his eyes as he finished his round during the final round of the 2016 U.S. Open at Oakmont Country Club in Oakmont, Pa. on Sunday, June 19, 2016. (Copyright USGA/Michael Cohen)

Shane Lowry wipes his eyes as he finished his round during the final round of the 2016 U.S. Open at Oakmont Country Club in Oakmont, Pa. on Sunday, June 19, 2016. (Copyright USGA/Michael Cohen)

As time has worn on, the pain has eased and the wounds have become battlescars — badges of honour he can look on with pride.

“You know, now speaking to my coach, I had a nice sit-down with him on Sunday before I left for here, and speaking to him, there's so many positives to take from the US Open, and going forward, I look back on that in a few years’ time and look back on that that was one week that really stood out to me for the rest of my career.”

Lowry is still something of a mystery to the US press, who will likely come to appreciate him as they do his friend, Pádraig Harrington.

No, he won’t be moving the US any time soon.

I was driving myself mad. But I’m over that now, and I’m ready to get back playing.
— Shane Lowry on second guessing himself after Oakmont

“Dublin is my home now in Ireland, and I see that being the case for the next while."

“How do you practice in the winter?

“I don’t,” he said, drawing laughs.

Quizzed about the columnist who wondered if his fitness might be to blame for the bogeys he made over the final few holes of the US Open, he didn’t hold back.

"Little did he know that I was one ahead with five — after 67 holes or 66 holes, whatever it was. But you have people like that. Irish people are the best in the world, but then there's some of them that like to get on your back as soon as they can. That's just the way it is. I’ve had it all my life, and more so now.”

The questions turned back to the USGA’s handling of Johnson’s rules infringement on the fifth and the delay in applying the penalty and the uncertainty of where his rival stood, Lowry revealed that his caddie was told by Billy Foster with three holes to go that the American looked unlikely to be docked a shot.

"I did my interviews afterwards and I said it didn't affect me at all, but when I look back on it, it did. You know, I stood on the 16th tee, and to be fair, Billy Foster, who caddies for Lee [Westwood], went over to Dermot and as Dermot was walking off the 15th green and basically said to him that he doesn't think Dustin was going to be penalised. We then stood on the 16th tee and went, right, we're two behind, whereas we were only one behind.

"Now, I think I've heard reports, and I spoke to Lee about it, I think if Dustin really wanted to argue his case, he could have, and he might have got away with that penalty shot if he really needed to. I mean, it would have been interesting to see if the two of us had have been tied or I would have won by one, whether Dustin would have got penalized that shot or not.

 Shane Lowry saves par on the 13th hole during the final round of the 2016 U.S. Open at Oakmont Country Club in Oakmont, Pa. on Sunday, June 19, 2016. (Copyright USGA/Darren Carroll)

Shane Lowry saves par on the 13th hole during the final round of the 2016 U.S. Open at Oakmont Country Club in Oakmont, Pa. on Sunday, June 19, 2016. (Copyright USGA/Darren Carroll)

"I think we might have had a different scenario then. But at the time, yeah, I thought it didn't affect me, but it did, yeah. It really did.”

The 29-year old Offaly native has certainly come a long way since the first time he shed tears over golf in the US.

That was in 2009, when he make the field in Akron as a reward for his Irish Open win as an amateur just three months earlier and finished 77th in the 80-man field.

"The first time I came here, I shot 20 over for four rounds. I didn't think leaving that Sunday that I could win around here. Yeah, it obviously shows me how far I’ve come.”

Returning to talk of the Olympics, he echoed Rory McIlroy’s comments in Versailles and said that the majors and Ryder Cup were his big ambitions. 

I thought it didn’t affect me, but it did, yeah. It really did.
— Lowry on the US Open rules confusion

“The pinnacle of my golfing career would be to win a major or to play the Ryder Cup or to do both,” he said.

On his decision not to go to Rio, he explained: "People can believe me or say what they want about me, but no one wants to play for Ireland more than I do. Not be going down to Rio now is a little bit disappointing, but that’s just the decision I had to make.

"My wife, I'm newly married, we plan on starting a family. Obviously it was a decision I felt like I had to make. I know there’s a small risk going -- it's only a very small risk going down to Rio, but that word is still there, the risk. 

"There's still a risk going down. If anything, God forbid, was ever to happen to any of my kids, if I have a family, if I'm lucky enough to have a family, if anything was to ever happen to any of my kids and it was my fault completely, I would never live with myself.

"I spoke with people last week, and that's the decision I made. I stand by that decision, and I still think it was the right one.”