Golf is funny. Shane Lowry of Ireland says that a lot.
He said it during an interview last year, but he was not laughing. Instead, he sounded down. He was frustrated with his golf game, worn out from the road and missing his family. “When things are not going your way, it can be a lonely lifestyle,” said Lowry, 32, who is playing in the Italian Open at Olgiata Golf Club in Rome from Thursday to Sunday.
Those were not good times for Lowry. He found himself crying inside his car in the parking lot after missing the cut at the 2018 British Open at Carnoustie Golf Links in Scotland. “Golf was not my friend,” he said at the time.
Today, the claret jug he won at this year’s Open sits on the counter in his kitchen, where he had just finished making dinner for his daughter, Iris. Golf is funny, indeed.
“She’s not impressed,” Lowry said in an interview. “She’s too young to know.”
How exactly did he get from such lows to winning by six shots at Royal Portrush in July? He cannot credit one specific change. When pressed, he hangs his recent success to a change in his mentality and maturity.
“I changed my mind-set on the golf course,” he said. “When we were talking last year around the Irish Open, I was struggling. You just need to fight through that.”
Then Lowry said it again. “Golf is funny. You just never know what’s around the corner. If you believe what you are doing is the right thing for you, then you will get success eventually.
“I’ve never really been a consistent performer my whole career — I’ve had my ups and downs like everybody. I put it down to maturity.”
Lowry also changed his caddy, which he said had helped his course management. He credits his new caddy Bo Martin with keeping him grounded under pressure. Martin and Neil Manchip, Lowry’s coach, have helped him not get too negative when results are not there.
“Bo just tries to keep me occupied and keeps me from getting ahead of myself,” Lowry said. “If I’m feeling edgy and nervous, like I was at the Open, I tell Bo. And his job is to just get me ready to hit the next shot. He obviously does a great job, week in and week out.”
Lowry said Manchip helped take the pressure off, too, especially before the British Open when they talked about what winning it would mean. Win or lose, at the end of the day, Lowry understood that he would still be the same guy. The goal was to go out every day and be the best golfer he could be.
“Obviously, it did happen, and I don’t think it changed me a whole lot as a person,” Lowry said. “My family life is the same as it was before. When you come home in the evening, you have a good score or a bad score. But you still have to get up and do it all again tomorrow. That’s really helped me this year. There have been times this year where I have shot a bad score and I’m able to get over it. Before, I would let bad scores take it out of me. That was a reason for some of my bad form.
“I focused too hard and it meant too much to me. You need to be very patient in this game and let the results come to you instead of forcing the results. That’s what I’ve done this year.”
Having a family factored into Lowry’s maturity and mentality, too. He married in 2016, and his daughter arrived the next year. Lowry said that changed everything.
“There is more to life than golf,” he said. “Maybe a few years ago, all I had was golf. But now I have a wife and a baby, and they mean everything to me. Family comes first at the end of the day.”
He has been offered advice on handling the pressure to perform after winning a major. Rory McIlroy suggested that he enjoy the moment and take stock. Padraig Harrington warned him not to fall victim to the pressure that comes with winning a major.
“I really feel like I’m just the same person and same golfer,” Lowry said. “I don’t feel like I need to go out and prove myself. I feel like I can just be me. But you always need advice from your peers. Both asked me how I’m coping. Rory asked if I’ve noticed how much busier I am, and if I’m managing my time differently than I used to. Things are different that way. I used to just go with the flow during tournaments. Now, I have more commitments.”
As Lowry finishes the year, he has a clear goal: make the Ryder Cup team. He is second in the Race to Dubai, the point system that partly determines Europe’s No. 1 player. His wins in Abu Dhabi and at the British Open bring him closer.
“I’m 32, I feel like I need to make one soon,” Lowry said. “I hope it’s my time. I feel like it’s the next step for me. But at the end of the day, I’m doing what I love for a living and providing for my family. I’m able to give them a good life. There’s not much to complain about.”
Lowry said he was still the same man, the same golfer. Nothing really has changed. But he has learned one thing that will serve him well.
“When it comes to the big tournaments, I know I have what it takes to get it over the line.”
That, and golf is funny.