Open champion Shane Lowry relishing the chance to play in Irish Open
"As long as the tournament went ahead, I was always going to be here. And I'm here now so I might as well play well"
By Keith Jackson
Last Updated: 24/09/20 10:15am
Shane Lowry is the star draw in this week's Irish Open at Galgorm Castle, just 30 miles from Royal Portrush, but the atmosphere will be vastly different to when he was crowned Open champion last year.
Lowry is looking forward to competing in his homeland for the first time since his memorable six-shot Open triumph, and is happy just to have the opportunity after the tournament switched from Mount Juliet to Galgorm Castle.
The 33-year-old insisted he did not consider staying at home in Florida and missing the event he won for the first time as an amateur in 2009, and Lowry is satisfied with the strict health and safety protocols implemented by the European Tour since professional golf returned following the coronavirus shutdown.
"I was super excited to go to Mount Juliet this year as Open champion and play in the Irish Open but obviously that didn't happen with everything that went on," said Lowry, who has posted only two top-10 finishes since his Open victory and has slipped to 30th in the world rankings.
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"We're here now at Galgorm and I'm happy to be playing in an Irish Open this year and I'm happy to be here. I would love it if the people could come out and watch me because Portrush isn't actually too far away, and it would've been nice but it is what it is. Hopefully I give people something to watch on TV over the next few days.
"As long as the tournament went ahead, I was always going to be here, unless there was a major championship. I don't think I would've missed it. I'm here now so I might as well play well.
"It's going to be a lot different. We've played a lot of tournaments without fans over the last few weeks and it is strange. Especially the bigger events, and this is going to be one of the bigger events for me. We'll see how it goes. I'm used to it now so I'll just get out and do what I've been doing, try and shoot the best scores I can and see where it leaves me."
This is Lowry's first post-lockdown event on the European Tour having played in 11 events in the United States since June, and he has no problem abiding by the tighter bio-secure "bubble" regulations compared to the PGA Tour.
"I arrived today and got my test done and I believe the bubble is a little stricter here in Europe," he added. "We're confined to the hotel, which is fine, I don't mind that at all. Anything to play golf, we're very fortunate to be doing what we do for a living.
"There are plenty of people out there who have lost their jobs through all this so I'm very happy just to be doing my job and trying to do my best."
Lowry has been a regular participant in the Irish Open since his remarkable victory as a 22-year-old amateur at County Louth, where he edged out Robert Rock in a dramatic play-off, and he feels obliged to compete every year as a former champion.
"I got an invite to Baltray when I was 22 and I managed to go and win," said Lowry. "I didn't really know what it was about and then I realised over the last few years how big it is for Irish people and the Irish players and that's probably the reason I'm here this week.
"It gave me a great kickstart to my career and I feel like I owe it to the tournament to be back here this week."