Shane Lowry banished the demons of his 2016 US Open loss to once again taste victory at the Abu Dhabi HSBC Championship last weekend. Lowry, a winner of the 2009 Irish Open as an amateur, also has a 2015 WGC-Bridgestone Invitational title under his belt having won the tournament in Ohio. That was the Offaly native’s last win on tour and the pain of losing the US Open at Oakmont in 2016, when leading from the front, was sure to have played on his mind when he saw his 3-shot overnight lead crumble into a 4-shot deficit approaching the back nine on the final day. However the Irishman displayed a commendable mental resilience to overtake his playing partner Richard Sterne on the final hole. Afterwards, when quizzed on the effect Oakmont had on him, Lowry reflected: “The one thing I got from Oakmont is I laid down and I didn’t show any fight or bottle there and I did that today. I felt after the 11th hole, I was getting myself in the same situation that I got myself in Oakmont and I genuinely thought that. But I kind of had a quick word with myself and told myself that, you know, just kick on now and just see what I can do for the next six or seven holes.”
Lowry finished his 1st round in Abu Dhabi by equalling the course record in an exceptional round, going out in 62 with no bogeys for the day and a 3-shot lead on the nearest player. With his iron work impeccable and his putting smooth, Lowry appeared comfortable on the course. He started the 2nd day in an extremely contrasting manner with 2 dropped shots to fall out of the lead and was visibly frustrated with his driving. He regained his composure and form to again take control of the tournament by just the 1 shot. In total, 22 players entered the weekend within 5 shots of the lead and with hopes of victory. The 3rd round was less than consistent from Lowry, but he came up trumps when it mattered most, including 3 consecutive birdies on the front nine, to stretch his lead to 3 shots heading into the final day. The crowds finally arrived and so the stage was set for Lowry to fight it out for his first victory in 4 years, but all did not go to plan as he was frequently off target with the driver and was consequently in trouble approaching the greens. After finding the water off the tee on the 9th, Lowry closed the front nine with 3 bogeys and 2 birdies to sit 3 behind the new leader Sterne. The South African was 5 under par for the front and suddenly looked the favourite. The lead extended to 4 shots after more wayward shooting from the Irishman. But the momentum swung in Lowry’s favour once again as Sterne bogeyed twice and two birdies for Lowry saw him close the gap. Lowry saw the par 3’s play in his favour all week as he birdied the 12th hole for the fourth consecutive time, in total Lowry was 11 under par on the par 3’s. The South African leader tripled putted on the 14th and lost his lead on the 16th hole to leave the pair on level terms. At the 17th, Lowry was again inconsistent with his long range shots and a difficult chip left him with a long 12 foot putt for par. Lowry had been making clutch puts all weekend to stay in the competition and showed his mettle again to sink the crucial putt and the crowd roared him on as they approached the last tee-box. Cometh the hour, cometh the man: Lowry’s tee shot was perfect and his approach to the final green was sublime. Sterne found the rough and was on course for a par when Lowry found the green at pin level and appeared to have 2 shots to win. His first putt was short but close enough for 3 time tour winner to become a 4 time tour winner. The relief was all too visible on the face of Lowry as he rolled in the winning putt to collect €1,024,000 in the process. The commentators couldn’t help but praise the mental toughness and character that was shown throughout the day. The quality of golf wasn’t always at the elite level, but the sportsmanship definitely was.
The victory propelled Lowry up from 75th in the World Rankings, well into the top 50 at number 41 currently. He now sits well in contention for an invite to this year’s Masters at Augusta and qualifies for the WGC Mexico Championship and the WGC Dell Technologies Match Play. With Padraig Harrington recently unveiled as the next European Ryder Cup captain, Shane Lowry will be keen catch his fellow Irishman’s attention and aim to remain in the qualification pool in September. Speaking on the Ryder Cup, he stated: “I still have a goal in my head I’m working towards every day and just because I won this doesn’t mean I can take my foot off the gas. It’s a great stepping stone, no doubt because I’m back in the big tournaments now for the foreseeable future and hopefully I can kick on from here and move back up the World Rankings where I feel like I really belong.”.
Speaking after the tournament, Lowry referenced his delight at the recent unification between the Golfing Union of Ireland and the Irish Ladies Golfing Union, now under one all-inclusive body: Golf Ireland. A Transition Period will immediately commence, with the intention for this to culminate with the first AGM and regional meetings of Golf Ireland happening in the final quarter of 2020, paving the way for the organisation to ‘go live’ on 1 January 2021.The transitions period will involve the organisation taking shape through creation of a regional and national structure and the drawing up of rules and processes to underpin the activities of the organisation, all overseen by a CEO who will be appointed early in the Transition Period and who will work with a Transitions Team. The GUI and ILGU will continue to operate through the Transition Period with the transfer of functions and staff to Golf Ireland prior to the ‘go live’ date for the new organisation. The merger was voted forward by 100% of the ILGU and 94% of GUI clubs. ILGU Chief Executive Sinead Heraty expressed a sentiment felt by many: “I thought it was brilliant that Shane Lowry mentioned it yesterday after what was a superb win for him. For him to pick up on that was a class touch. It was a great weekend for Irish golf.”