Shane Lowry: "People at home don't realise how hard it is out here"

Shane Lowry: "People at home don't realise how hard it is out here"
 Sergio Garcia. Picture: Warren Little/Getty Images

Sergio Garcia. Picture: Warren Little/Getty Images

Shane Lowry could only look on the bright side after he made 18 birdies in four rounds and still finished 11 shots behind winner Sergio Garcia in the Andalucía Valderrama Masters.

As he takes the next week off to recharge after playing five on the spin, the Offaly man will spend little time thinking about the five shots he dropped on the 18th over the last three rounds.

A closing 72 was good enough to give him a share of 12th behind Garcia on one-under par, moving him to 61st in the Race to Dubai with two events to go.

Unlike Pádraig Harrington, whose game is not suited to Valderrama's narrow confines, Lowry loved the test. And had he been driving the ball at his best, he might have avoided the two doubles at the 18th, or some of the 13 bogeys he made over four rounds.

As a case of what might have been, this was a classic.

"Coming off the golf course that last two days after doubling 18, it is very tough to come back from there, and I did, twice," Lowry said. 

"It was one of those days where I could have shot anything.  I made a couple of bad errors early on, gave myself a lot of chances, then bogeyed the last again. So I played that last hole in five over for the week. So 'what might have been' is right." 

The great thing about professional golf is that there's always next week — or the week after next in Lowry's case.

After eight years on tour, he knows the wins sometimes come when you least expect them. But he also knows that despite his frustrations this year, his best golf is not far away.

"It's hard to describe when you play this game for a living," he told Meridian Media's Denis Kirwan. "It's tough at the top level. You can be quite close one week and feel like you are very close and then go out and have a bad week the next week. 

"Or you might feel like your game is not there at all and go out and have a good week. It's a great game to be playing, and I am very lucky to be playing it for my living. But it's driving me mad at times.

"I am just hoping I can have a good end to my season because I feel like my golf is good."

Asked if he felt like taking a JCB to Valderrama's 18th, Lowry joked that a chainsaw might be more suitable for dealing with the cork oaks that line a hole that is not much loved by the purists of golf design. 

"I wasn't that great off the tee this week, but that's what this golf course does to you," he said. "It's very tight, and I am looking forward to going home for a week. Then I have Turkey and South Africa, and hopefully, I can make the Race to Dubai [finale.]"

After the US PGA, he said his goal was to try and get back into the world's top 50 before the end of the year. And while he appears to be treading water in his career right now, he knows that it can all change in an instant, as he proved in Akron two years ago.

"You can't force anything. You just have to keep doing what you think is right and that's all I do," he added. 

"I get a lot of criticism here, there and everywhere, but people at home don't realise how hard it is out here. It is one of the toughest sports in the world to compete at, if you look at numbers.

"I am not here making excuses for why I feel I haven't had a good season. But my game is definitely not far away. You are never too far from a good week." 

Pádraig Harrington also shot 72 to finish tied 27th on two-over, leaving him 118th in the Race to Dubai after an injury-hit season.

"I should have done a little bit better, but I suppose you feel that about every tournament apart from the ones you win," Harrington said. 

"It wouldn't be my favourite style of golf course. It was a lot of hard work at times. I had it going a few times, but I missed a few a few putts and lost momentum."

While he is in the fortunate position that rankings and cards mean little — he still has work to do via a medical exemption to avoid having to use his Career Money List privilege on the PGA Tour —  the 46-year-old is simply looking to add to his tally of worldwide wins.

"I am not worried about where I am going to go and play," he said. "Maybe I'd play a bit better if I was."

As for Garcia, one clear of Daniel Brooks entering the final round, the Masters champion built a three-shot lead after 11 holes before he was caught by Dutchman Joost Luiten.

In the end, he closed with a four-under 67 to win by a shot on 12-under-par and consign Luiten, who missed a short putt on the 16th, to his second successive runner-up finish at Valderrama.

It was Garcia's sixth European Tour win on Spanish soil, his third victory of the year, and his first since claiming a maiden Major Championship title at the Masters.

The win means Garcia closed the gap on Tommy Fleetwood at the top of the Race to Dubai Rankings presented by Rolex, with the battle to be crowned 2017 European Tour Number One all to play for heading into the final four events of the season.

Luiten carded six birdies and bogey for a five under 66 but came up just short as a crucial birdie putt at the last just lipped out, leaving him on 11 under for a runner-up finish that moved him to 31st in the Race to Dubai.

England's Daniel Brooks was four shots further back on seven under, after a level par 71, finishing two shots clear of Welshman Jamie Donaldson and three ahead of Australia's Wade Ormsby as all three men moved inside the top 101 in the Rankings to secure their playing privileges for next season.

Sergio Garcia

“It’s been an amazing year, and to win here at Valderrama is very special. I’m really excited about it, it’s difficult to describe how it feels to win at home and to win on your favourite golf course.

“It was amazing - all three of us played amazing. Daniel played great with everything that he had on the line. Joost played unbelievable. I played really well and felt like maybe I could get away, but he just kept coming back and back and made it an amazing match.

“I stayed patient the whole time, I made sure the bad moments did not affect me too much and made a couple of really key putts coming in.

“The people were unbelievable, amazing, so many people came out and supported, it was really a treat. I want to dedicate this one to my wife Angela and our little baby coming next year in March.”

Joost Luiten

“It was a great battle, to go up against one of the best players in Europe and go head-to-head down the stretch was really fun and unfortunately I came up one short. I missed a short one on 16 and that’s probably the one which really left me one shot short.

“I’ve hit my irons pretty good all week, I hit one really close on five with an eight iron to four feet and then on six a seven iron to ten feet. I had a nice one on nine too, but you know when you come up against these guys you’ve got to go for the pins and be aggressive. I tried and it paid off in the beginning, unfortunately one mistake on the greens cost me but that’s golf.

“The atmosphere was great, especially when you’re coming up 17 and they’re all sitting behind the green on the bank. It’s one of the best holes in golf I guess. It’s great – I wish they had been a little more quiet on the 18th with me winning – but that’s golf and Sergio deserved it.

“The putt on 18 was right to left and I had the right line but unfortunately it had a bit too much speed and it lipped out. That’s one of those putts if you’re a bit more lucky it goes in, but they can stay out. I gave it a run and Sergio just outplayed me.”

Daniel Brooks

"It was good - Sunday at Valderrama playing with Sergio in his home event and him winning, it's pretty good. I had a good day out there, at the end of the day I kept my card which was nice and that was the goal at the beginning of the week.

“I didn't think about it at the start of the week at all. I just went out there to play but, as the days went on I started thinking about it. I'm in here now and I needed to finish it off and luckily I did."

Jamie Donaldson

“I played nicely, wasn't quite the ball-striking of yesterday but still pretty good. I had lots of chances, holed some good putts out there and some great up-and-downs coming down the last few holes.

“You know what you've got to do, you've got to finish a certain position to guarantee things so you've always got that in the back of your mind but you've just got to play the golf course as you planned to play it.

“I had a bit of a cushion knowing that I didn't completely need to keep my card because I do have a year left of my Career Money List exemption but, even so, you don't want to use it.”

 

Andalucia Valderrama Masters hosted by the Sergio Garcia Foundation,  Real Club Valderrama (Par 71)

272 S Garcia (Esp) 66 71 68 67, 

273 J Luiten (Ned) 66 70 71 66, 

277 D Brooks (Eng) 70 72 64 71, 

279 J Donaldson (Wal) 73 67 68 71, 

280 W Ormsby (Aus) 73 70 67 70, 

281 A Hansen (Den) 70 70 71 70, S Jamieson (Sco) 69 68 71 73, 

282 N Bertasio (Ita) 74 71 69 68, R Rock (Eng) 67 70 74 71, J Suri (USA) 73 73 65 71, A Rai (Eng) 70 74 71 67, 

283 P Larrazábal (Esp) 67 73 73 70, A Otaegui (Esp) 71 71 72 69, P Hanson (Swe) 69 75 68 71, Shane Lowry (Irl) 72 70 69 72, O Fisher (Eng) 72 73 70 68, A Chesters (Eng) 72 74 69 68, 

284 S Kjeldsen (Den) 72 71 70 71, C Hanson (Eng) 72 74 68 70, D Willett (Eng) 70 72 71 71, M Wallace (Eng) 71 72 69 72, A Sullivan (Eng) 71 72 74 67, 

285 R Gouveia (Por) 69 70 72 74, A Johnston (Eng) 69 71 73 72, S Soderberg (Swe) 73 69 72 71, R Paratore (Ita) 77 68 72 68, 

286 M Kaymer (Ger) 70 72 74 70, J Scrivener (Aus) 70 75 72 69, Pádraig Harrington (Irl) 72 73 69 72, 

287 R Dinwiddie (Eng) 71 71 71 74, R Bland (Eng) 70 71 73 73, P Waring (Eng) 71 72 71 73, M Manassero (Ita) 70 74 68 75, J Lima (Por) 72 72 70 73, R Jacquelin (Fra) 71 70 73 73, 

288 T Detry (Bel) 72 72 71 73, J Fahrbring (Swe) 73 71 70 74, L Jensen (Den) 70 74 73 71, C Pigem (Esp) 73 73 74 68, J Morrison (Eng) 69 74 73 72, F Fritsch (Ger) 71 75 70 72, A Cañizares (Esp) 72 70 75 71, B Evans (Eng) 69 69 77 73, Z Lombard (RSA) 75 71 72 70, J Campillo (Esp) 73 73 72 70, 

289 P Peterson (USA) 68 72 75 74, A Plant (Eng) 70 72 74 73, 

290 R Finch (Eng) 69 73 72 76, A Wu (Chn) 72 71 74 73, L Slattery (Eng) 72 71 71 76, B Ritthammer (Ger) 75 68 70 77, B Dredge (Wal) 73 73 71 73, 

291 M Foster (Eng) 73 72 77 69, 

292 A Connelly (Can) 73 69 76 74, J Walters (RSA) 71 74 71 76, P Angles (Esp) 75 69 74 74, A Romero (Arg) 71 75 75 71, 

293 S Crocker (USA) 73 73 75 72, A Karlsson (Swe) 73 72 75 73, E Molinari (Ita) 69 71 81 72, 

294 F Aguilar (Chi) 70 76 76 72, 

295 D Perrier (Fra) 74 72 71 78, 

299 O Wilson (Eng) 69 70 81 79, 

300 C Syme (Sco) 75 70 76 79, 

302 A Knappe (Ger) 74 72 79 77