It’s been a rollercoster few months for Shane Lowry.
The Irishman split with his caddie Dermot Byrne after nine years together in July and lost his PGA Tour card one month later after a series of disappointing performances.
Down to 75th in the rankings and winless in more than three years, you could say the 31-year-old’s career was at a crossroads.
Now adjusting to life back as a European Tour player, his stunning victory at the Abu Dhabi HSBC Championship is a significant opening statement about both his season and prospects for the year ahead.
Rounds of 62-70-67-71 were sublime and showed a golfer who is confident, rejuvenated and very much at the pinnacle of his game. But it wasn’t as straightforward as the numbers suggest.
Lowry’s sizzling opening round 62 on Wednesday was the first 62 he’s shot since winning the Irish Open in 2009 and the first golfer on the European Tour to shoot 10 under par by hitting only four fairways.
It was always going to be difficult to replicate that display in the second round. He bogeyed two of the first three holes and at that point it looked like it could be another day where he could easily buckle under the pressure.
But, the Clara man dug in and showed a great ability to bounce back and posted four birdies to finish the day on two under.
His dominance continued on Friday with a five under par 67 to extend his lead to three strokes entering the final day. At that point it looked like there was only going to be one winner.
But anything can happen in golf and Lowry’s chances of a first title since August 2015 seemed dead as early as the fourth hole on Saturday. After firing six birides on the front nine, South African Richard Sterne led by three going into the back nine.
For, all the class Lowry showed, we all wondered whether it was going to be another capitulation. One we are so used to seeing at various tournaments over the course of his career.
Yet fortune favours the brave. Sterne bogeyed twice on 14 and 16, Lowry by contrast posted back-to-back birdies.
The pair were tied on the 18th hole, but Sterne’s approach found the rough on his way to closing for a par, while Lowry posted a birdie to seal a sensational victory.
It’s a win long overdue. The 31-year-old has endured years where he wasn’t at his best and dropping from 21st to 75th in the world underlined issues with his game.
As fans, we wanted to hear his fire and he breathed passion heading into this week as he spoke about having his toughest pre-season in his career to date. Hopefully he reaps the rewards as the year goes on. Lowry is likable, plays attractive golf and is a fan favourite among many worldwide.
It’s hard to believe it’s his 11th season as a professional. If you spoke to him the week leading up to winning the Irish Open in 2009 and told him he would go on to win four Tour events, a world golf championship and make over $16 million in career earnings, he would have taken your hand off.
But to win the Irish Open as a 22-year-old amateur, his expectations soared to new heights. Whether he has fulfilled those expectations or not, this win in Abu Dhabi changes the complexion of 2019 and now makes it easier in terms of invitations for various tournaments in the lead up to the Masters and the US Open.
In truth, Lowry possesses the talent, the power game and the short game to win more titles and harbour bigger goals.
His long-term ambition is to make the Ryder Cup team in 2020, captained by one of his closest friends in Padraig Harrington. It’s automatic motivation for him to have a skipper who he wants to play for and to be part of such a special team.
The triumph in Abu Dhabi should give him the belief he belongs with the very best, he clearly has the skillset to do so and marry those traits to this potential turning point plus his renewed motivation and it could be a 2019 full of consistent highs as opposed to the lows of previous years.
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