Shane Lowry sees himself as an entertainer, so the reigning Champion Golfer of the Year is relishing the chance to defend the Claret Jug in front of fans at Royal St George’s this week.
With The 149th Open postponed from its original date last summer due to the COVID-19 pandemic, Lowry has had the rare distinction of holding the Claret Jug for two years before having to defend it – something that hasn’t happened since World War II meant 1939 Champion Golfer Dick Burton held the title until 1946.
The Irishman was understandably disappointed not to experience an Open Championship last year but, by his own admission, struggled to produce his best golf in the tournaments that did go ahead without supporters in attendance.
So, with up to 32,000 fans per day set to visit Royal St George’s for the Championship days this week, the 34-year-old expects the experience to be well worth that wait.
“I’m happy to be here and more than that, I’m happy to be here in some sort of normal capacity with regards to having quite a few people out on the golf course,” explained Lowry in his press conference on Monday.
“Not having The Open last year was obviously disappointing because you want to play in the biggest tournaments year-in and year-out but having the big crowds, the grandstands and everything that comes along with The Open will be pretty cool this week.
“I look back on 2020 and, without making excuses too much, playing in front of fans does it for me and not playing in front of fans doesn’t do it for me. That’s just the way it is.
“I struggled last year coming out of lockdown. Little things like if you’re struggling to make a cut or down the bottom of the leaderboard, having people out there spurs you on.
“We’re in the entertainment business – when I have a difficult shot or I’m stuck behind a tree or have a tough up and down, I’m almost trying to show off a little bit when I play the shot.
“So 2020 was a write-off for me, with no fans, and I’m really looking forward to this week.”
EXCITED TO RETURN
Monday also saw Lowry hand the Claret Jug back to the R&A ahead of The 149th Open getting underway on Thursday.
But the reigning Champion still has designs on getting his hands straight back on it come the end of one of his favourite weeks of the year.
“I’m not ready to give the Claret Jug back,” added Lowry. “I just handed it back but I’m happy that it’s here and I’m happy to be defending it.
“I’ll be happy to be announced as the Champion on the first tee, I’ll be happy to get my first tee shot away and, if you’ve seen the rough on that first hole, I’ll be even happier if it’s on the fairway!
“You never get sick of hearing you’re the Open Champion but I’m ready to defend it, I’m ready to play in The Open again. I’m looking forward to it.
“It’s exciting playing The Open whether you’re defending or not because it’s such a big event.
“I always remember my first Open at St Andrews [in 2010] and I couldn’t believe the size of the grandstands and the magnitude of the whole thing.
“It’s just great to be here – it’s always great to play in The Open. One of the coolest things about being the Open Champion is that I get to play in it for years. I’ve got lots more left and this is one of them.
“I hope I can be competitive this week. I’d like to put up a good defence of my trophy and I’d give anything to give myself a good chance to win come the weekend.”