Shane Lowry had two years to ponder what it would be like to defend his Open Championship title and days away from that opportunity, he has resigned himself to the concept that there really is no way to know what to expect.
Lowry won his first major title at the 2019 Open Championship at Royal Portrush Golf Club in Northern Ireland, back when the world was a much different place. One pandemic and a postponed title defense later, he remains the reigning champion who still is coming to terms with the magnitude of it all.
“The thing is obviously I’ve defended tournaments before, but I’ve never come and defended a tournament of this magnitude,” Lowry said Monday in advance of this week’s Open Championship at Royal St. George’s Golf Club in England. “I’ve never really had that. Everything that happens for me this week is kind of new.”
If Lowry has plotted out how he expects the weekend to unfold, he isn’t admitting to it. He doesn’t seem to be thinking any further than that first tee shot in Thursday’s opening round.
“To be announced on the first tee as defending champion, I’ll be happy obviously to get that tee shot away,” he said. “And if you’ve seen the rough down the first hole, I’ll be happy if it’s on the fairway, even happier if it’s on the fairway.”
Feeling like his game is finally closer to his 2019 form than it was last year, Lowry at least brings confidence into this week’s tournament. Playing without galleries in 2020, the Ireland native lacked motivation.
“I look back on 2020 as a season, and without making excuses too much, I think playing in front of fans does it for me,” Lowry said. “Not playing in front of fans doesn’t do it for me. That’s just the way it is.
“I think I struggled last year coming out of lockdown. I was playing great. I’ve never played as much golf in my life, and I just was stale when I got out there. I just couldn’t get it going.”
Lowry had just one top 10 finish on the PGA Tour last season and was 112th on the money list. He was 123rd in FedEx Cup playoff points. In 2021, he has four top 10s, including a tie for fourth at the PGA Championship, and is 52nd on the money list having already earned over $1 million more than the previous year.
But his long reign as Open champion is close to coming to an end, unless he can find his top form again this week. It’s a tournament that obviously brings out the best in his game.
“Coming to play in the Open Championship, whether you’re defending or not, is exciting, because it’s such a big event,” Lowry said. “I always remember coming to my first Open in St. Andrews, and I couldn’t believe the size of the grandstands and the magnitude of the whole thing.
“… It’s always great to play in the Open. I said one of the coolest things about being The Open champion is I get to play in it for years. I have a lot more left, which is obviously really cool. This is one of them.”
–Field Level Media