Lowry hoping Birkdale returns the love

 Lowry hoping Birkdale returns the love
Shane Lowry at the launch of his deal with Immedis, a specialist division of the Taxback Group. Credit ©INPHO/Morgan Treacy

Shane Lowry at the launch of his deal with Immedis, a specialist division of the Taxback Group. Credit ©INPHO/Morgan Treacy

Shane Lowry has fallen in love with Royal Birkdale and hopes it's a match made in heaven as he seeks his maiden major win this week.

The Clara man has had this love at first sight feeling before when it comes to golf courses and while he has yet to win at Wentworth and finished second in the US Open at Oakmont, he loves the look of the Southport track and reckons his game is ready to click at any moment.

"I played 18 yesterday and it's possibly one of the best courses I've ever played," Lowry said before heading out with 2008 champion Pádraig Harrington and American pair Kevin Chappell and Daniel Berger. 

"It's important to like the course. Certain courses you go to, you don't really like, even when you go back. No matter how well you are playing, it's hard to get to like them. 

"When I got to Oakmont, I loved it straight away. When you get to certain places you just love it and you feel at home there. 

"This certainly feels like one of those. It feels like it is going to be quite tough."

The tougher the test, the better it suits Lowry whose strong driving and magical short game make him a dangerous man on a links.

And while his Open record is mixed - he missed the cut in 2015 and 2016 — he finished tied ninth behind Rory McIlroy at Hoylake three years ago and knows he's capable of beating the very best in the world.

He proved that his 2009 Irish Open win as an amateur was no fluke by capturing his first professional win at the Portugal Masters in 2012.

And he then showed  he’s more than good enough to take on the best by contending in the 2015 US Open at Chambers Bay and winning the WGC-Bridgestone Invitational later that year before going on to lead the US Open after three rounds last year.

He said: "My second win in Portugal was huge for me at the time.  I was doing alright, having good finishes and doing okay in the Race to Dubai. 

"But to win again was great. It obviously took a couple of years but I won a massive tournament in America and I definitely had the belief I could do that. 

"It's funny. Even though it might not look like you are in contention, I think I was one under with six to go at Chambers Bay and five won the tournament.  

"That was the one where I felt like I really belong here. It was definitely the one where I felt really at home."

Lowry loves to see his name on a leaderboard and knows that getting off to a good start alongside JB Holmes and Brandt Snedeker tomorrow will be key.

“It’s funny, and I suppose it is a weakness I have that when I am fighting it out at the back end of the leaderboard I struggle a little bit,”  confessed Lowry, who plans to hit a lot of two irons off the tee but also insisted that he’s not afraid to hit driver and take on the bunkers when required.

"But when I get up there and I am there, I can really push on. I feel if I can get myself at the business end of the tournament on a Friday afternoon I feel like I can really kick on. 

"In this game, you find yourself a lot on the cut mark or one inside the cut mark or one outside the cut because that’s just how it is, when things aren’t going your way that’s just how you find yourself.

"Especially over the last year I have found myself there a lot and it is a hard place to play golf and it is a hard place to play good golf. 

"You are playing very cagey and trying to make pars whereas when you’re at the top of the leaderboard you are setting your goals higher and setting your sights higher. 

"You tend to make more birdies and keep going from there."

With some bad weather forecast this week, Lowry hopes his late, 3:21pm tee time on Friday might coincide with a drop in the wind.

"I'm late and late, so I'll be taking the bins in on Friday," he joked. "It just depends on the weather. 

"When you’re out late, the wind can die down for the last few holes so it can be a help. We’ll have to wait and see.

"The time you want to be going out late is between one and three on Saturday. You’re never going to be too far off the lead if you’re doing that."

Lowry has shown flickers of form this year, challenging for the BMW PGA at Wentworth and finishing tied 20th in the Irish Open without doing anything spectacular.

He's hoping conditions will be tough enough to separate the good players from the stars and reckons he's close to clicking.

He said: "I feel like I’m hitting it solid. I feel good on the greens, chipping is decent as well. 

"I feel like my game is there and feel like some week it’s going to come together. Hopefully, it’ll be this week.

"The best golfers in the world are here. I'll go out and give it my best. I'm playing ok. I felt like I played nicely at Portstewart, and I played more golf last week than I’ve ever played on a week off, and a lot of links.

"I feel ready coming into it. I feel like I'm hitting the ball well. I feel like I don't need to be here doing too much. I feel like I just need to get to know the golf course.”

Asked the key that might unlock the door, he said: “I think if I keep putting well, I’ll be there or thereabouts.”