Sunday, February 17, 2013


Rory McIlroy or Tiger Woods? As golfing opponents, it is like choosing between King Kong and Godzilla. Shane Lowry would prefer the former, but is happy enough that it is not up him.
“I suppose I would rather Rory,” the Irishman said. “But I’ll just take the draw however it falls. I’m fairly laidback.” And with that attitude, Lowry will not watch the golf today, just as he did not watch it last Sunday.
If Fredrik Jacobson finishes 28th or better in the Northern Trust Open at Riviera — which seemed rather likely at the halfway point as the Swede was joint-leader on nine-under – Lowry will drop to 64th seed ahead of his debut in the World Match Play and will face McIlroy in the first round on Wednesday. 
Otherwise, so long as nobody else pulls out, he will square up to the world No 2, Woods, in Tucson. It is a simple scenario, far simpler than this time last week.
Only a 12-foot putt from the unheralded American Patrick Reed on the last at Pebble Beach enabled Lowry to qualify by 0.0002 of a ranking point. He was out with friends and was kept in touch with the events at the AT and T Championship only by another friend who could not bear to leave his television set.
“He was very excited but my attitude was that it wasn’t the end of the world if I didn’t make it,” said Lowry. “And as it was I would have made it anyway.”
Brandt Snedeker saw to that. When the world No 4 withdrew on Tuesday, Lowry and McIlroy began texting each other. Until then the former team-mates believed they would play each other at Dove Mountain. 
“The only way we can meet is in the final now,” Lowry typed. “We better ensure that we do then,” McIlroy replied.
But an earlier reunion might be on again. “I’d enjoy playing Rory,” Lowry said. “And there probably is a bit of pressure on him, what with the change of clubs and having not played for a month since missing the cut at Abu Dhabi.
“But Rory is Rory – he’s still the best in the world. It’s funny, we’ve never played against each other before, despite coming the through the amateur ranks together.”
Lowry, 25, and McIlroy, 23, were foursomes partners in the Ireland team that won the European Amateur Championship in 2007. They have been close ever since and now share a management company. It would feel less like the world No 1 versus the No 65 and more like the curly-haired boy from County Down against the beefy boy from Offaly.
Lowry agreed that he would be a more comfortable with that than facing Woods.
“I would be intimidated if I played Tiger,” he said. “Since I started golf, it’s always been Tiger who’s been the greatest. Standing on that first tee against him would be nerve-racking. But I would have to get that out of my system early and put aside being in awe of him, for at least five hours anyway.
“But the way I look at it is that, whoever I play, I’ll have nothing to lose and everything to gain. This is going to be a great experience and a great chance to prove myself against the best.
“If I play my best golf I’ll have a really good chance of beating whoever I’m up against. I’ll tell myself that I came up against the best in the Irish Open when I was an amateur and a nobody – and I managed to win that.”
Almost four years on, it stretches credulity to think that a 3000-1 outsider playing in his first professional event – which just happened to be his national open – could beat a formidable field containing McIlroy, Lee Westwood and Padraig Harrington. Lowry turned professional soon after the Baltray event.
Inevitably, much was expected from him and he has turned that potential into silverware, winning his first title as a professional at the Portugal Masters. That has taken him to cusp of the elite and the next three weeks in America might provide another watershed.
A good run in Tucson could earn him a place in the next WGC event, the Cadillac Championship in Doral. In between he is considering going through Monday qualifying for the Honda Classic in Palm Beach Gardens. The Masters would then beckon.
“It’s all about the match play for me,” he said. “It’s a format I like, although I haven’t played it since I was a pro. The last match play match I had was in the final of the West of Ireland Amateur in 2009. I was beaten by a lad called Dave Corsby. Don’t know whatever happened to Dave.”
For Lowry’s information, the Lancastrian is doing his PGA qualifications and is attached to Fleetwood Golf Club. He is hoping to make quite a leap, which neatly sums up Lowry’s progress: from Dave Corsby to Rory McIlroy. Or maybe Tiger Woods.



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