Interview with Shane Lowry at 2021 Abu Dhabi HSBC Championship

Ahead of the Abu Dhabi HSBC Championship, we spoke to 2019 champion Shane Lowry about defending his Open title this year and making the Ryder Cup team.

How are you feeling coming into this week? And can you expand on your goals for 2021?

Obviously I’ve had some success here in the past, in 2019. I didn’t play here for quite a few years so it was nice to come back that year and then win in my first trip back for a while. I like the tournament and I like the place but I haven’t played a tournament in definitely eight weeks, maybe more. I had some time off and I’ve been in the States for the last couple of weeks doing some practice which is nice. I feel like my game is good, I’m playing nicely in practice but we all know sometimes that doesn’t always transform into good form on the course so we’ll just have to wait and see, prepare as best I can here and then on Thursday go out and give it my best shot and see where it leaves me.

How has your pre-season practice been going in the United States?

I went back to the States and Wendy and Irish came with me to get them settled over there more than anything. They weren’t able to travel here with me – well they could have, but we felt that with restrictions and travel and everything –  so we’d go to America and get set up there, I’d come over here and do my three weeks here and then we’d go back to America until after the U.S. Open. It’s worked out well because obviously I’m a member at the Bears Club there which is obviously one of the best practice facilities you can get. Neil came over and spent a full week with me so we got some good work done, I played a good few games of golf. I had a run around Seminole one day which was really nice, I played a few games with a good Irishman Mark Murphy and a couple of other lads. I played a few games with Murph and I’ve gotten to know him since going down there, he lives there in Jupiter. So it was a nice week but a good week’s practice as well.

What are your thoughts about the JP McManus Pro-Am being postponed, and are you optimistic about the upcoming season despite coronavirus?

Obviously I got the email the other day to say the JP McManus Pro-Am was going to be cancelled and obviously the way that they run it, they want to do it properly and they obviously don’t think they’ll be able to do that in July with 40,000 people around Adare Manor which I would agree with – that we’re not going to be back to the level of normality that that would need so the year ahead, I think the year ahead who knows? I think we seem to be getting back to a stage, especially in America where they seem to be talking about having fans back in the Florida swing or maybe at the Masters. I see they announced they were going to have some patrons there. Hopefully we get back to a stage where we have some fans but like I said I’m just happy to be doing my job and playing golf and I think we all are. The fact that we’re all competing, and we’re here in Abu Dhabi this year with the prize fund gone up a million dollars. It’s incredible what both tours have done, the European Tour and the PGA Tour, and it’s great to be back playing and doing our jobs, and it has been for around six months now. I’d be fairly optimistic in thinking everything will go ahead, it’s just how much of a level of normality will it be, who knows.

What would represent a successful year for you?

I think if I get another win on the board and head to America in September and win the Ryder Cup that’s my goal for the year, to focus on myself and try and get another win on the board soon enough and then hopefully go to Whistling Straits in September and bring back the Ryder Cup to Europe. Obviously I want to make the team but I also want to go out there and win as well, stamp my name on that part of golf.

How does it feel to still be the reigning Open champion? With that extra time off, is there more weight on your shoulders to try to defend that trophy?

I don’t think there is any weight on my shoulders to go and defend the trophy. I did what I did in Portrush and obviously I’m very happy about that and grateful I got to do that. It is strange that I’m still the Open Champion, it’s been a good year and a half now or more. Hopefully we’ll get to Royal St George’s this year, hopefully there’ll be crowds and hopefully I put in a good performance. But whether I’m defending champion going to defend my title or not, it doesn’t matter any week, you just want to go out and perform your best and you’re hoping that will be good enough towards the end of the week and if it is then that’s great.

What’s it like coming back this week and seeing the course again, and what are your thoughts on this tournament attracting such a strong field?

The golf course has been really good, there’s not as much rough as there has been in previous years. I think they overseeded it a couple of weeks later than they normally do so it’s not as thick as it normally is. The greens are not really as firm or quick as they normally are. I think the scoring could be quite good but then the forecast is to be quite windy so we’ll just wait and see what happens. It’s obviously nice to come back to a place where you’ve played well in the past. To have such a good field here, I think the way the European Tour is, every time Rory and the top guys come back and play – it’s always great to have Rory playing on the European Tour – they always bring their World Ranking Points and a sense of excitement to a tournament and it adds to an event. So to have such a good field here is great for the tour and great for Abu Dhabi and HSBC as well.

You’ve been clear about your ambition to make Padraig Harrington’s Ryder Cup team. Is the biggest challenge compartmentalising that and letting the golf take care of it, rather than letting it get in the way?

I’ve probably let it get in the way in previous years. I’ve only really had one good chance of making The Ryder Cup team and I messed that up myself, let’s be honest. That was in 2016 for Darren’s team. The way I am now and the way my career path has gone, I’m more mature and ready to go and take that next step and make the team. It’s just up to me to get there my own way, let myself play golf. I know how good I can play, I just need to try and let that happen, keep working hard and hopefully I’m on that plane, not only going there but winning the trophy as well.

What is your motivation like since winning The Open, and what would be the next big event you’d like to win?

My motivation never changes. Anybody who knows me knows I’m one of the most competitive people you will come across. Even playing nine holes with Pádraig today and I’m trying my best to shoot the best score I can to win that. The next big tournament I’d like to win would be this one. Every tournament I play I’m trying to win. You don’t win them all. You just have to take your chance when you get it. I come out here and give my best week-in, week-out to try and compete. My motivation has never been stronger. I probably have more motivation than I ever had to go out, play my best, answers some questions I have of myself – or maybe that other people have. I’m ready to hit the ground running this year and hopefully I can get off to a good start this week.

You’re good friends with Padraig, has the subject of the Ryder Cup come up yet?

It’s funny, we never talk about it. I don’t want to leave it to him to have to pick me, because I know how hard a decision that would be. If I’m playing great golf and deserve a pick, I deserve one, end of story. But I don’t want to have to depend on one. I want to make the team and he knows that more than anything. I’m going to be doing my best. Golf’s a funny game. We don’t know what’s ahead of us. I go out and give my best every day and see where it leaves me. If for some reason I don’t make the team and I’m playing good enough golf, I might deserve a pick. We genuinely don’t talk about it. It never really comes up in conversation.

Speaking to Lee Westwood this morning, he mentioned the increased points in the race to make the team – do you feel that gives you every chance to qualify?

What they’ve done with the points is great for the likes of me who is outside the team at the minute. I get the chance to make up points over the next eight months. I’m happy with that and hopefully I can make as many as is enough to get in the team. Hopefully I make more than enough and have the best season of my life. I know if I can play as good as I know I can, there’s no doubt I can make that team.

You were caught out by a microphone at the Honda Classic, a tee shot into the water. On that occasion a couple of swear words. Justin Thomas was caught out the other week. What’s your view on ‘hot’ mics on the course, catching what players say?

I got caught out before. I got penalised for it. It’s tricky. We’re out there, it’s your livelihood. You’re out there under high-pressure situations. The way I am, I wear my heart on my sleeve. I give my best every day. Sometimes I can get a bit hot under the collar. You need to be careful what you do say and you need to watch what you’re saying because people are watching at home. The microphones do get very close at times, especially when you’re under a high-pressure situation. I wasn’t expecting that question, I don’t really know how to answer it. I’m not condoning what anyone says, I’m not saying we should be allowed to say what we want, but if people keep getting caught out and people don’t like what they’re hearing, maybe it’s time to keep them a bit further from us. I’d like to add I’m not condoning what anyone says. It’s just a tricky situation. People at home – Phil Mickelson and Bones are famous for their conversations, there’s one from The Open of myself and Bo and it’s great in those situations that people really get to interact and see how we go about our business. But, in another situation, when people hit bad shots, they’re going to let out anger and you have to weigh up the options and see what’s the best.

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