Shane Lowry should be at Royal St George’s Golf Club defending the claret jug this week.
Instead, he’s at Muirfield Village Golf Club after the Open Championship was cancelled and the Memorial was moved back six weeks as the PGA Tour shuffled its schedule because of the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic.
“I wouldn’t say it’s bittersweet, but it is strange,” the Irishman said. “It’s just very strange times for us at the minute, isn’t it?”
The last time The Open was cancelled was during World War II. Dick Burton won the claret jug in 1939, defeating Johnny Bulla by two strokes, and less than two months later Adolf Hitler invaded Poland, causing France and Britain to declare war on Germany. The tournament wasn’t played again until seven years later.
This year, The Open was called off in April as the coronavirus spread around the globe. Given the circumstances, Lowry says he happy to be playing any golf at all right now, but he’ll admittedly miss all the elements that would have gone with being the defending champion this week.
“I’ve never played in The Open at St George’s, so that would have been different,” the 33-year-old said. “I miss the crowds, you miss the kind of buzz, the adrenaline you get from that, and I miss all that. I miss being announced on the first tee as defending champion, but I’m sure I’ll get that next year.”
For now, he’ll focus on trying to get back to playing the level of golf that earned him his first Major.
Since winning at Royal Portrush 12 months ago, Lowry has just one top 10 in 19 worldwide starts. Along the way, he has been reminded often of the victory and sometimes has found himself reflecting on the memories of that week.
Has it been a distraction?
“I certainly do find myself looking at the trophy and looking back on clips and videos and stuff like that,” he said. “But for me, that’s only normal. I’m not sure if other guys do that or if it’s the right thing to do or the wrong thing to do; who knows.
“I was sitting in the house [Tuesday] evening, just finished dinner, and I was flicking through the channels, and next thing the Golf Channel popped up and they were showing the final round. So I watched a little bit of it. I didn’t stay up late enough to watch it all, but I did watch a little bit of it, and yeah, it’s just cool looking back on it.”
Even once Lowry did start to play well, it didn’t last. He began to find his form in late February, with a pair of 69s to open the Honda Classic to sit just three off the lead at PGA National. He faded a bit on the weekend but still finished in a tie for 21st. Two weeks later, he went to TPC Sawgrass feeling good about his game and shot one-over in the opening round of the Players Championship. Later that night, the tournament was cancelled and golf went on hiatus for three months.
The tour resumed its season five weeks ago, but Lowry has two missed cuts, with a T-39 his best finish in four starts since.
Still, there have been some signs of progress. Last week at Muirfield Village, Lowry made 20 birdies and an eagle on his way to a T-39 in the Workday Charity Open.
Now comes another week. It’s not Royal St George’s but it is the same course he played last week.
“I’m still fairly optimistic where my game is at,” Lowry said. “I kind of just need to cut out the mistakes this week, and you never know what could happen.”