Shane Lowry: 'I still pinch myself when I’m announced as the Champion Golfer of the Year’

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As he bids to end the season as Europe's No.1 golfer, Shane Lowry reflects on his epic victory at The Open, the hangover that followed and why he's already got one eye on 2020...

Shane Lowry still savours these moments, caressing the trophy he always dreamed of holding as a kid. He blows his cheeks out when asked to describe the moment he holed the winning putt at Royal Portrush, and squirms when we ask how many times he’s watched it back on TV. “A few,” he says, before bursting out laughing. “I found a great clip the other day of the full highlights on Sunday. I don’t watch myself all the time, but I do love watching that.”

Has it been tough returning to normality?
The first few weeks were a bit of a whirlwind. It’s sunk in a little bit now. When you have the trophy sitting in the kitchen, it’s pretty incredible. Like, I still pinch myself when I’m announced as the Champion Golfer of the Year. 

How wild were the celebrations?
Social media killed me. It told everyone what I was doing. Look, I had a great time and afterwards I had a good week away on holiday. I then flew to America and tried to get back to normal. But I’m still trying to enjoy it as much as I can because when you’ve had a few bad times on the course, you really have to sit back and take it all in.

Have you bought anything to commemorate the victory?
I’ve got a couple of gifts for certain people. I’ve bought myself a nice little watch with something engraved on it. I don’t want to say what, but it’s got the Claret Jug on there. 

When you were coming down the stretch, did you ever think back to your near miss at the 2016 US Open?
Oh yeah, it was in my mind. When I finished on Saturday, I looked up at the leaderboard and said to my caddie, ‘well, at least they’re not going to ask me too much about Oakmont’. I was four ahead and was four ahead at Oakmont. After about three questions in the press conference, someone brought it up. But I was happy they did. At the time, I said I don’t know what I’ve learned from Oakmont but we’ll see tomorrow. Clearly, I must have learned something. 

Have you spoken to Rory since everything that’s happened?
We had dinner at the Northern Trust. Rory was one of the first to text me afterwards. He was obviously very disappointed about his own week, but was incredibly happy for me I think. When you look at the amount of Majors us Irish lads have won, it’s pretty incredible and a nice thing to be part of.

Did you ever wonder whether your best chance of winning a Major had gone?
Honestly, no. If I sat down at the end of my career without a Major, I wouldn’t have been too stressed. I’ve always said that I don’t try to peak for Majors. I don’t think I’m at that level. I just want to compete as well as I can in every tournament and win a few along the way. Thankfully, The Open was one of them.  

We’ve seen players struggle after winning a Major. Is that a concern?
No, no. I try not to let myself think about that. There are plenty of other winners who kicked on and I want to be one of them. 

What are your goals for the future?
The short-term goal is to close out and win the Race to Dubai. I’m going to have to play good golf at the end of the season. But long term, the Ryder Cup is the aim. I’m 33 next year and it’s about time I got myself on the team. I’ve done my schedule for the next 12 months and it’s focused on making the team.

Have you spoken to Padraig yet?
I’m very good friends with him so I speak to him every week. He’s not said anything to me about the Ryder Cup yet, but he knows how much I want to make the team, especially with it being near Chicago, where there’s lots of Irish people.  

Is the Olympics a target as well? 
As long as I’m on the team, I’ll be going to Japan next year. There’s a lot of golf to be played between now and then but when it comes around, I’ll be very excited. I got a lot of stick after the [2016] Olympics for not going, but I had my reasons. Anyone who knows me knows I’m a proud Irishman. I’d love to wear the Irish colours. My coach, Neil [Manchip], is the Irish team captain so that adds to it. 

Shane Lowry is a Srixon/Cleveland Golf ambassador. This exclusive interview first appeared in the December 2019 Issue of Today's Golfer.