Golf can be a cruel game, even for some of the very best players in history. For every player who triumphs in a major championship, there’s a multitude of others who fall just short, and must live with the thoughts of “what if” for the rest of their careers.
Irishman Shane Lowry is among the latter, despite his many successes on Tour. Even though he achieved an incredible triumph — winning the Open Championship in 2019, the year it returned to the island of Ireland — three years before, he had been gutted beyond belief when a four-shot lead at the U.S. Open at Oakmont disintegrated over the course of the final round when Lowry bogeyed three of his final five holes, posting a Sunday 76.
Yet, with the benefit of hindsight, Lowry acknowledges that it was likely the intense heartbreak that he experienced at Oakmont that led to his dominant maiden major victory at Royal Portrush, and on this week’s episode of Off Course with Claude Harmon, he explained why.
“I let [Oakmont] get away from me, and that still bugs me to this day,” Lowry said. “I had a four-shot lead, and obviously DJ clawed it back, and I made a few bogeys. And then, before I knew it, I was standing on the 14th green, with a 30-footer for birdie, and I was tied for the lead. But really, in my head, everything had gone so quickly, and I was after losing my four-shot lead, and everything was getting away from me. But I was actually still in the tournament.”
Lowry said that his inability to look past the fact that his lead had dissipated and instead focus on the present — that he was still in the hunt — was due to his own immaturity. But when he was again tasked with playing the final round of a major with a significant lead — once more, a four-shot advantage — Lowry believes he was better prepared the second time around.
“I was in the same situation in Portrush, and I knew what I was gonna be faced with,” Lowry said. “I knew those lads were gonna throw basically the kitchen sink at me, and I knew I needed to be tough and strong and mentally strong that day. And I was.”
Indeed. Lowry ended up winning the 2019 Open Championship by six shots over Tommy Fleetwood.
For more from Lowry, including what he learned from watching Tiger make a 10 at the Masters, and why he likes to keep his pre-round warmup short, check out the full interview below.