SHANE LOWRY INTERVIEW: “I WANT TO BE ON THAT PLANE TO ROME”
Reigning BMW PGA champion Shane Lowry talks about the excitement and added pressure that comes with defending his title at Wentworth, reflects on his major season, and discusses his hopes for earning a place in the European team for next month’s Ryder Cup in Italy
It obviously wasn’t the end to the major season you were looking for with a missed cut at The Open, but you had decent finishes in the other three – tied 16th in the Masters, tied 12th at the PGA and tied 20th at the US Open. How would you assess your major season?
Yeah, it was disappointing at Hoylake, being a past champion, and being where I’m from, people always expect you to perform well on these types of courses. Living over in the States now, and the courses I play in week in week out, it even takes like me a while to get back to feeling comfortable playing on links golf.
I felt a bit rusty with it all on at the Scottish Open, but I got back into it and shot a couple of low rounds, but I also hit some really weird shots that I would never normally hit on a links.
I felt like there was decent stuff in there at Hoylake but I also made a few silly mistakes and they cost you round a course like that. It wasn’t easy, as some of the scores showed.
It was hard to settle – you stand on every tee and almost every bunker is in play, and you’re kind of trying to figure out what to do because if you lay back, long way in, it’s quite tricky, and you’re just playing for pars.
If take it on and hit a bad shot and end up in a bunker, it’s a dropped shot at best. It asks a lot of questions, and it’s the most well-bunkered course that we play. They’re everywhere, and they’re very penal.
As for the other tournaments, yeah top-20 finishes make for ok reading, but I wasn’t really in
a position to win any of them going into the final round, and that’s what you want in a major, to go out on Sunday knowing you’re really in the mix, so while it looks ok on paper, I know that I need to put myself in a better position on Saturdays.
It is what it is. You can’t really look at the majors in their own right, yes, they are the big ones, but you also have to look at where you’re game is trending and hope that you can peak at the right time, while not being in a trough in between. I’ve been fairly consistent this year, but not nearly enough top 10s or top 5s.
“I’VE ALWAYS FELT LIKE THE WAY THE BMW PGA CHAMPIONSHIP IS PRESENTED IS THE CLOSEST YOU GET TO THE FEELING OF A MAJOR, OUTSIDE OF THE MAJORS”
Let’s take you back to your last win, the 2022 BWM PGA Championship at Wentworth. How much are you looking forward to defending the title and what did it mean for you to win what is one of the DP World Tour’s biggest events in front of a big crowd?
Well, first and foremost, Wentworth is a place that I’ve always loved playing ever since I first
went there in 2010. I’ve always played quite well there and even from my early days it was always
a tournament I felt like
I could win some day. It’s obviously our biggest event on the calendar on the DP World Tour, and it’s an event that you definitely want to add your name to if you can. It’s got a great history to it, a great list of winners, and I was over the moon to get over the line last year.
Beating Rory and Jon Rahm down the stretch is pretty nice to do, and it was a huge moment in my career.
You birdied the last for a 65 to win. Jon Rahm shot a 62 that day, and Rory had that putt to tie and you were sat in the scorer’s hut. What are your abiding memories of what it took to play like you did on Sunday, what it meant when Rory’s eagle putt slid by and it meant you were the champion.
Yeah, I’ve had a few chances to win around Wentworth over the years. I remember in 2014
I had a two-shot lead with about six holes to go and I doubled 13, and Rory ended up beating me. I finished second that year. And then there was another year where I was in the lead and Alex Noren shot 62 on Sunday to beat me.
When I saw that Rahmbo shot 62, I was like, oh, here we go again. I mean, you never doubt Rory, but I was playing of the last hole thinking, there’s no way he can beat me here, there’s no way he can make eagle here and he almost, did, but thankfully he didn’t, and I got my hands on the trophy.
As I said, it’s a course that I love playing, and I like the way it sets up for my game.
What is it about the West Course that seems to suit your eye so well?
The thing with the West is that it’s not a golf course that you can overpower. I feel like you need to be very strategic to score well and that’s when I am at my best – when I need to move the ball both ways and position my tee shots.
You also need to be a pretty good iron player to compete around Wentworth, and your mid-iron play needs to be really on point, because there’s a lot of long par fours. There are chances out there, but there’s also a lot of holes that play very difficult.
For those reasons it’s one of the best golf courses that we play all year, and that’s why it always produces decent winners – present company excepted!
You’ve won some big tournaments in your career – The Open, national championships, Rolex events and a WGC. What is it about the big events that brings out the best in you?
Yeah, I always feel like I perform better in the bigger tournaments. You get certain places where the bigger crowds, the stronger fields, and the whole set up feels like a big tournament. I’ve always felt like the way the BMW is presented is the closest you get to the feeling of a major, outside of the majors, if you know what I mean.
This year’s BMW PGA falls just two weeks before the Ryder Cup and is the last chance to move up the points list or to attract the captain’s eye for a wildcard. How do you rate your chances on being on that plane to Rome at the end of September?
I feel like I can still make the team. I want to make the tea, my goal is till to get to the Tour Championship and come back and play the Irish Open and Wentworth. I think if I do that, I’ll ask Luke a lot of questions about why he should pick me if I’m not on the team automatically.
I feel like I can add a lot to the team and I feel like my game has been pretty solid all year. I just need to keep doing what I’m doing and yeah, hopefully if I need one, I’ll get a pick.
After you played in the 2021 Ryder Cup at Whistling Straits you said it was really hard to go back to playing ‘normal golf ’ after that because of what it meant to you. How hard is it to put that out of your mind when you’re trying to play normal golf to get on the team?
Yeah, look, sometimes getting on the team does weigh on your mind a little too much. I should have made the team in 2016, but the desire to get on the team kind of got in the way of me playing good golf to get there.
But I feel like I’ve got better at taking each tournament as it comes and trying to play as good of golf as I can so that everything else will take care of itself. It’s certainly something that I’ll need to do over the next few weeks and focus on the job in hand.
And hopefully when it comes to it, if I’m there, I’ll be in a position to contribute and help win the trophy, and that’s what it’s all about. It’s not just about being there, it’s about contributing.
What is your abiding memory of your experience at Whistling Straits and what do you think you could add to the team in Rome?
Although we got beaten quite badly, I still
have great memories from there, some of the best moments of my career. I think before I played at Whistling Straits, I obviously thought I knew what the Ryder Cup meant, but after you play in it, you realise what it actually means to the players, to the Tour, to all the staff that are there all week.
You know, it’s not just the 12 players. There’s a couple of hundred people there on the European side that work so hard in the build up to it and the week of it that it means so much for everyone. I feel like if I get to Rome, I can add a lot to the team.
I feel like I’m a good team player and I feel like I can play with anybody. Who would I like to play with? I’m not sure, and I don’t really care. If Luke tells me to play with someone, I’ll play with someone.
That’s the way it is. I think I’d be good for maybe a couple of rookies that would be on the team. I like to think that I would be able to take one or two guys under my wing and help them enjoy the week as much as they can leading up to it and when you get into it, make people understand how much the Ryder Cup means.
You played in an away leg, where there was quite a bit of hostility from the US fans. You seemed to thrive on that, but it will hopefully be a different experience in Rome, with more home support. How will you feed off that?
I’ve never played in a home Ryder Cup, so I don’t really know. There were literally no European fans at Whistling Straits. It did make a difference.
It was very hard to get any momentum going. No matter what we did, you couldn’t really hear any fans cheering, whereas I’d imagine when there’s home support and you hear your team holing putts and the crowd’s reaction, it can give you a big boost if you’re down in your match or if you’re struggling with something.
Home advantage is huge in the Ryder Cup, as the results in recent years have shown, and hopefully that will be the case again this year. I
’m sure there will be a lot of people travelling from all over Europe, and there will be a lot of Italians there and it will be a great Ryder Cup. We will be underdogs, as ever, but I would argue that we have some of the best players in the world on our team.
We’ll just have to see what happens when it comes to the third week in September. Hopefully, I’ll be there.
You switched caddies in March. What brought that about and how hard was it to go out and find somebody that you feel fits your game?
Yeah, it kind of came out of nowhere. I started this year in the Middle East, and I had a bad couple of weeks, and Bo [Martin] and I had a chat I said that things weren’t going as well as I probably hoped, and I thought that I just needed to freshen things up.
Brian had been on the bag for almost five years, and I’ve only had two caddies in my entire 14-year career on tour, so I’m not a habitual caddy firer or anything like that – I had Dermot [Byrne] on the bag for nine years before that – but I just needed to change things up.
I didn’t have a replacement in mind, so it was a bit mad, but I’ve known Darren [Reynolds] for years. He had just started working with Alex Levy on the DP World Tour. I almost didn’t want to ask him, because I knew he just got a new job, and I didn’t want to take him away and then it not work out for us, but, frankly, he was one of the few options I had, so we just had a chat.
He caddied for me during COVID for a few weeks when Bo couldn’t, and it’s been going pretty well. It’s never easy making changes to any part of your game or your set up, but there are always tough decisions to make.