Shane Lowry easily able to slide into ‘links mode’ with 2 huge weeks ahead
GULLANE, Scotland — One day after a group of Scottish Open competitors admitted to varying degrees of bemusement when faced with the inherently unpredictable nature of links golf, former Open champion Shane Lowry was clearly on the other side of this particular golfing coin.
The Irishman, owner of two of the most educated hands in the professional game, has some history by the seaside, much of it positive. Unforgettably the winner of golf’s oldest major at Royal Portrush in 2019, the 36-year-old also claimed the Irish Open title in foul conditions at County Louth in 2009, when he was still an amateur.
Lowry knows how to get things done when the wind is blowing, the rain is falling and many of his contemporaries are wishing they were somewhere other than enjoying a day out on the links.
“I’m not saying I don’t have to think about it at all, but I get back into links mode quite quickly,” said Lowry after playing nine holes at the Renaissance Club where this week he is making his first appearance in the Scottish Open since 2016. “I was actually chatting to Corey Connors about this yesterday. Coming back to links golf is a mental battle. In your mind, it’s hard to get yourself hitting, say, a 7-iron only 130 yards. That’s way more difficult than any physical aspect of the shot.
“So the big thing is seeing the shots, which is something I’ve always done pretty well. I have a good imagination for that sort of thing. I certainly don’t have to work on that or anything else specifically in order to get ready for the Open at Hoylake next week.”
Indeed, listening to Lowry talk of just how he plays golf by the seaside is an education for anyone looking to master the intricacies of the game’s most stimulating—and often vexing—format.
“Last week at home in Ireland I was hitting 8-irons only 120 yards or so,” he explained. “And I hit some nice shots. At times too, I went the extra mile and hit a 7-iron. Just to exaggerate the feel of what I was trying to do. It’s all about controlling the flight of the ball. Get that part right and judging how far the ball is going to go—downwind, or into the breeze—is more straightforward. Downwind can often be more difficult. It’s always hard to know how far a shot will carry when the breeze is at your back.
“I would agree that the trickiest part of all this is hitting the in-between shots the right distance, no matter what direction the wind is blowing. In those situations, it is all about feel. For me, technique is almost irrelevant. I just get the yardage, feel the shot and do it.”
Shane Lowry on the 18th hole at Castle Stuart during the 2016 Scottish Open, the last time he's played the event.
Kevin C. Cox
Hang on though. The number? Isn’t that irrelevant for a man who is clearly an artist more than the sort of scientists that so dominate the modern game?
“The number is just a starting point really,” he added. “For example, let’s say I am 140 yards from the pin and the wind feels like it is going to deliver, say, 30 yards of hurt. So it’s a 170-yard shot. I hit my 8-iron 170 yards, but I know 8-iron is not the play. It will come up short, the ball climbing into the headwind. So I know I have to go down the grip on a 7-iron to keep the ball lower than normal. But at address all I’m thinking about is making a smooth swing. Again, it’s all about the feel.”
In a similar vein, Lowry expressed some contentment with regard to the sometimes-maligned Tom Doak-design he will be playing this week. Nine years ago, he competed in the Scottish Open at the notoriously difficult Royal Aberdeen and arrived at Hoylake for the Open feeling diminished both physically and mentally. The last thing he wants to be doing this week is struggling too mightily, even in conditions he knows play into his strengths.
“I do feel like I have an advantage over most players when it comes to links golf,” he contends. “I’m good in the wind. I see the game very well. That’s my biggest edge. I’m not one-dimensional. Which is not to say I don’t like to play in perfect weather. I do. But I know when the weather gets bad, I have the shots to cope with the conditions.”
As for why he is in Scotland this week rather than following his most recent habit of playing social golf on links at home, Lowry’s explanation is simple.
“It’s just scheduling,” he initially claimed. “Well, that and the fact that I need points for the FedEx Cup and the Ryder Cup.”
Speaking of the biennial contest with the Americans, Lowry is keen to make up for the heavy defeat the Europeans suffered at Whistling Straits two years ago. Already he is part of locker room chat on the subject with the likes of Tommy Fleetwood and Tyrrell Hatton.
“I’m obviously hoping to be part of the side again this year,” says Lowry. “I’m not nailed on yet. But the team is shaping up very well. I hear people saying they are hoping for a close match. But I’m not. Although I do think it would be amazing if it all comes down to the last few matches on Sunday afternoon. I was part of a team that got beat very badly last time. But the margins are fine. I think we lost by 10 points. But that is only five matches. Having said that, we have a score to settle. Of course, the Americans won’t be short of motivation either. It’s been 30 years since they have won over here. We are aware of that.”
Still, before all that, there is a big tournament and a major championship to be played. So much to look forward to.
“The thing I love most about the Open is the atmosphere,” Lowry concludes. “Being announced on the first tee is pretty good too. But it is the fans who make the Open what it is—the best tournament in the world.”