Brooks Koepka was anointed as one of the game’s modern greats at Bethpage Black but Shane Lowry also reminded everyone that he’s got the game to challenge for Majors.
On what was also a positive weekend for Rory McIlroy and Graeme McDowell, the Clara man showed true grit in one of the golf’s toughest mental and physical tests.
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Not even Koepka could match Lowry’s brilliance over the last two rounds, where he shot rounds of 68 and 69 to head the field by a shot from McIlroy and finished tied for eighth with the Holywood star on one-over par.
“I suppose I’ve always shown in the past that I like golf courses where you need to go out and battle it out, grind it out,” said Lowry, who earned $264,395 and moved up six spots to 39th in the world, confirming his place in next month’s US Open at Pebble Beach.
“I’ve always said they’re the tournaments that suit me the most. That’s what Majors are all about. Augusta is maybe a little bit different but most Majors are about going out and grinding your nuts off – where pars are good.
“I don’t feel out of my comfort zone playing these tournaments anymore. I’ve been doing it for a long time now and I’m just happy to be here.”
It was Lowry’s fourth top-10 finish in 25 Major starts and the fact that he’s bullish about qualifying for Pádraig Harrington’s European Ryder Cup team shows he’s a man with serious ambitions. An opening 75 almost cost him dear but he had the mental strength to birdie the 17th and make the cut right on the mark with a 69 on Friday.
“The mental test out there grinds on you and I don’t think mentally I was there on Thursday but I somehow got it back the last few days,” said Lowry.
“I think this is why Brooks is so good in these events because he’s mentally so strong. The way I tried to play was to shoot the best score I could and see where it left me at the end of the day.
“Isn’t golf a funny game? You’re one swing away from going home on Friday and you’re standing here Sunday as one of the happiest people here. I keep saying, it’s a strange game we play.”
Lowry is determined to make the 2020 Ryder Cup team but he can’t even fathom the atmosphere that awaits Europe at Bethpage Black in 2024.
“A Ryder Cup here will be crazy, I think Europe will need to have the 12 most thick-skinned people on the team as opposed to the 12 best players,” Lowry said. “It’ll be brutal. I would leave the wives inside in that one too.”
McIlroy was encouraged after winning his own battle to make the cut after slipping to seven-over through 27 holes.
“It’s a 72-hole golf tournament, and you’ve got to try until the very end and I did that this week,” he said. “It wasn’t good enough to be up there in contention, but I made improvements each and every day which is a good thing.”
His next task is to play well in the US Open after missing the cut for the last three years and he’ll play The Memorial and the RBC Canadian Open to get ready.
He’ll be joined in Canada by McDowell, who can’t wait to get back to the scene of his 2010 US Open win after grinding for a 29th place finish at Bethpage.
“I can just play golf for golf’s sake, really, apart from Portrush,” said McDowell, who won his card thanks to his PGA Tour win in the Dominican Republic but has yet to secure his spot in The Open. “That’s the only little blip in my horizon at the minute and I’m trying to shove that to the back of my mind as far as I can and now focus on these next few weeks.”
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