Shane Lowry reacts to him and Tyrrell Hatton winning their Saturday afternoon fourball match in the 2021 Ryder Cup. Maddie Meyer/PGA of America
Just over a week has passed since European Ryder Cup captain Luke Donald added six picks of varying predictability, interest and controversy to the automatic qualifiers and completed the side he hopes will win back the trophy from the Americans at the Marco Simone Country Club just outside Rome later this month.
Maybe only one of the six wildcards, however, covered all three of those three adjectives. While a case could certainly be made for the inclusion of former Open champion Shane Lowry, the presence of the Irishman ahead of Poland’s Adrian Meronk was a shock for many observers. Donald’s repeated intention to pick form players had obviously been abandoned, or at least deemed to be flawed thinking. Lowry had, until his T-3 finish in last week’s Irish Open, not recorded a top-10 in any tournament since February.
Still, playing at home in Ireland, Lowry (at least in some minds) went a long way to confirming the validity of his selection by shooting 12 under par at the K Club and finishing only two shots behind the new champion (succeeding Meronk), Vincent Norrman. From somewhere, he had gained some motivation and inspiration from any and all of the negativity surrounding his selection. The suggestions that he did not belong in what will be his second Ryder Cup clearly struck a nerve. An air of defensiveness pervaded his response to that charge.
“I know there was a little bit about that last week,” Lowry said, before pausing for thought, on Tuesday ahead of the BMW Championship at Wentworth. “I need to be careful here. It didn’t sit very well with me, to be honest. Yes, my results have not been amazing this year. But I feel if you purely go down to statistics and go down to the 12 best players in Europe, I’m one of them. I feel like I deserve my place on the team.
“I didn’t feel like I had to go out and prove anything to anyone last week,” he continued. “The Irish Open is important to me and a tournament I wanted to play well in. If I shut a few people up, so be it, but I wasn’t trying to do that last week. I wasn’t trying to finish third last week. I was trying to win last week. So last week was disappointing for me. This week is the same. I’m trying to win the tournament here this week. I know I deserve to be on that team, and I know I’ll be good in Rome in a couple of weeks. I’m very excited for it.”
While it wasn’t too surprising to hear that Lowry was a little miffed to find himself a controversial pick, it would be remiss not to agree with his assessment of his status as one of Europe’s best-12 players. His record — but not his recent form — speaks to that fact. And he had some further thoughts on the matter.
“I think I’m a good player for a start,” he said. ‘I think I’m not going to be afraid of anyone that comes to stand on first tee in two weeks’ time. I think I’ll be good for the rookies. I think I’ll be good for team morale or in the team room. I think I’ll be passionate. I’ll show my emotions. I’ll enjoy myself.”
Speaking of which, Lowry was back at Wentworth two days before defending his title in the BMW PGA Championship and just a few hours from returning from Marco Simone. On Monday, all 12 of the Europeans and their caddies (the loopers were absent from the American group that visited Marco Simone over the weekend) took in the Ryder Cup site, played 18 holes and had what Lowry claimed was “an amazing few hours together”.
Surprisingly, not too much of the chat revolved around the set-up of the course, although he did concede the rough is “pretty thick”.
“Yesterday was a very worthwhile exercise,” Lowry went on. “We had a dinner last night and had a team meeting and some dinner and just told stories. The older guys told stories and the rookies listened. It was great. Everyone spoke last night. It was very, very cool, just to get everyone involved. So it was one of those days that we got a lot done, things we won’t need to do in two weeks. Any hour you can save the week of the Ryder Cup is needed.”
And the course?
“You need to hit fairways and you need to hit greens, and you need to stay in the hole, and that’s the way we like it,” he said. “The rough is pretty brutal in spots but it’s no different to what you might see at the US Open. But if you go decently off the fairways, it’s going to get very interesting. I only lost one ball, so I was pretty happy with myself. I played with Bob [MacIntyre], Sepp [Straka] and Justin Rose, and yeah, we were pretty good. One of the other groups lost a few balls. When the Americans get their home Ryder Cup, they try and set up the course to suit them. This time I think the vice-captains are trying to set up the golf course to suit us.”
That exercise is far from an exact science, given the number of variables involved when 18-hole match play is the game, a fact Lowry was quick to acknowledge. Citing the fact that World No. 1 Scottie Scheffler has been far and away the best player on the planet this year tee-to-green, the bearded Irishman conceded the “course will suit him”.
“They have got some of the best players in the world,” he said. “But we also have some of the best players in the world. I honestly think that it all comes down to who gets off to a fast start and who holes the most putts. That’s what Ryder Cups are about. We have been told that we’re setting the course up for us. So it should suit us. But if we don’t play good enough, we are not going to win.”
One last thing. In case anyone hasn’t noticed, there is a big event going on this week at Wentworth, one Lowry has enjoyed more than most over the years. Defending champion this week, in 13 appearances in the biggest event on the DP World Tour, Lowry has 10 top-20 finishes and five top-10s. Donald take note. This course set-up clearly suits the 2019 champion golfer of year’s game.