Shane Lowry: Give Rory McIlroy a break – he saved the Irish Open

We're inside the ropes with the new World No. 39 on Rory McIlroy, Bethpage Black and his plans for the season.

Shane Lowry


We’ve just landed in Ireland today and I’m back home now for 10 days, which is really nice. I haven’t been home since February, so there’s a few games of golf lined up next week. Other than that, I’ll just be chilling.

I saw that Rory McIlroy was getting a bit of stick about playing in the Scottish Open, but swerving the Irish Open. I know Rory quite well and he reckons that this year’s Open Championship at Royal Portrush is probably the biggest tournament that he’s ever going to play in his life.

He said he’d rather win that over anything else. That’s how much he wants to win that tournament.

He wants to prepare as well as he can for Royal Portrush. If that means he’ll miss the Irish Open and play the Scottish Open instead, I understand why. But not everyone seems to realise that. He’s been getting a lot of stick for not playing in the Irish Open at Lahinch, but the Irish Open was basically gone a couple of years ago until he came in and saved it.

I don’t think he really owes the Irish Open anything and I’m sure he’ll be back playing it again in the next couple of years.


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Home comforts

I’ll be based at home now, but the plan is to play in the Canadian Open in a fortnight, the week before the US Open at Pebble Beach in mid-June. Canada will be kind of a warm-up week before the third Major in California. I like it in Canada and I’ve played there the last few years.

After that, it’s back home for the Irish Open at Lahinch in early July and the Open Championship at Royal Portrush the week after.

To be honest, I’ve missed home and I’m looking forward to being back. I’ve barely spent a week in the country this year, so I’m really looking forward to seeing everyone. I’ve only seen my mum once since Christmas, though my dad’s been over a couple of times and was at Bethpage last week, so, it’ll be great to get back again for a while.


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Back in Bethpage Black

I think Bethpage last week was potentially the toughest course I’ve ever played. The conditions were quite wet and cold and that made it a bit tougher. It’s up there with Oakmont, (where I finished second to Dustin Johnson in the 2016 US Open) as being the toughest I’ve ever played.

Bethpage Black was more of a US Open-style setup. A USPGA course is normally set up a little bit easier to give you a double score, but only Brooks Koepka managed to hit double figures. While I didn’t have the best of starts, but it was great to have three really good rounds and finish tied-eighth, overall.

I felt I didn’t play that badly on the Thursday, but I just scored badly and made the most mistakes I possibly could have in one day. I paid the course a bit too much respect. In saying that, I didn’t really change my game plan for the next two days.

I just felt I played a little bit better and I scored better. You can’t really chase on the golf course because you find yourself making bogeys, stupid bogeys. Obviously, I knew what I needed to do on the Friday to make the cut, which was to go out and play very well. That’s what I did.


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The thing about golf is, it’s never over until the final putt is sunk. Brooks Koepka was so far ahead that I couldn’t see him losing, being honest.

After the second round you were looking at it thinking, Koepka is going to run away with this, but the funny thing is, you have a bad run of holes and suddenly, the tournament is wide open again. That’s exactly what happened when Dustin Johnson got within one shot of the lead on Sunday.

Suddenly, Dustin was in with a chance. Sunday was just brutally tough. I’m not sure whether that helped, or hurt, Koepka in the end.

He had a nice lead to protect, but I wouldn’t say many Major winners have shot five over on the back nine and still won it.

Still, it worked out well for him – and me – in the end.

I’ve moved up to 39 in the world rankings now, my best in almost three years. When you play well in a Major, it helps you everywhere, so it was great to do that last weekend and I’m looking forward to the next couple of months. They’ll be busy.

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What do you think?