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Saturday 19 October 2019

Lowry glad to be in the limelight

Offaly man's 'roller-coaster' career on rise again and he's thoroughly enjoying it

Shane Lowry is back in contention for a major at the halfway stage of the Open
Shane Lowry is back in contention for a major at the halfway stage of the Open
Lee Westwood of England, with caddy and girlfriend Helen Storey

Shane Lowry's "roller-coaster" career is on the climb again and the Irishman is enjoying every minute.

A year after being 90th in the world and sacking his caddie Dermot Byrne, the 32-year-old is tied for the lead in the 148th Open Championship at Royal Portrush, 167 miles up the road from the family home in Clara, County Offaly.

In the interceding 12 months Lowry has risen to 33rd in the rankings, having won in Abu Dhabi in January and finished joint eight at the US PGA in May.

The last time Lowry, whose biggest win to date has been the WGC Bridgestone in 2015, had this kind of major spotlight was at the 2016 US Open in Oakmont, where he led by four heading into the final round only to produce a trio of three-putts on the back nine to hand victory to Dustin Johnson.

There is even more focus this time around after shooting a second-round 67 to reach eight under alongside JB Holmes, having been out on his own on 10 under before a couple of bogeys coming home.

Experience

But after all his experience Lowry knows he cannot afford to get ahead of himself.

"I'm obviously going to be thinking about it tonight," he said when asked about the prospect of winning the Claret Jug.

"There's no point in shying away from it. I'm in a great position. But, my God, have we got a long way to go.

"I've won big tournaments before, and I've shot some good scores and I'm in a familiar place. I know the surroundings. I feel pretty comfortable here this week.

"I suppose I struggled at The Open in Carnoustie last year. I didn't have my caddie that I had for nine years and I was very down about how things were and I wasn't in a great place mentally.

"I'm in a totally different place now, it's chalk and cheese.

"As a golfer you have such a long career. I've been 10 years now and it's just a roller coaster.

"I think the reason I'm so good mentally now is I know - I think - how to take the downs.

"I feel like the roller coaster ride is going to be there. Hopefully I have it for another 15, 20 years. You've got to enjoy the good times and take the bad times on the chin."

The fact he is happier with himself and his game, plus three years extra experience, will hopefully mean he does not suffer a similar collapse to the one at the US Open.

"Oakmont was so long ago and I was a lot younger," he added.

"I feel like if I get the opportunity this week I'll be better. I'm trying to say it definitely won't affect me what happened in Oakmont.

"Obviously I've got over that. It took me a while to get over it but I got over it."

A year after sacking his caddie following his fourth straight missed cut in the Open, Ireland's Shane Lowry will take a share of the lead into the third round of the year's final major.

Shot

Tommy Fleetwood - who could follow Ryder Cup partner Francesco Molinari in lifting the Claret Jug - and Lee Westwood were a shot behind Lowry and Holmes.

Olympic champion Justin Rose is a stroke further back alongside Cameron Smith and Justin Harding, with world number one Brooks Koepka ominously poised on five under in pursuit of a fifth major win in his last 10 starts.

Former champion Jordan Spieth was alongside Koepka after a 67, but Tiger Woods missed the halfway cut despite battling back from his worst opening round in the Open with a battling 70.

Westwood is breaking the golden rule of mixing business with pleasure - and reaping the benefits.

The 46-year-old's girlfriend Helen Storey has been working as his caddie at a major tournament for the first time in this week's Open Championship at Royal Portrush.

Westwood revealed Storey knows just how to keep him calm and focused, and the former world number one has promptly hit form.

The Worksop native shot 67 yesterday to add to Thursday's 68 for a seven under score to sneak into contention for that elusive maiden major crown.

"Helen said she'd love to do it and I said I'd love her to do it, so that was a very easy decision," said Westwood, happy to be light-hearted as well as serious when discussing their working partnership.

"It's no mean feat carrying that golf bag around, especially in this weather, because it is fully loaded. I don't give her an easy break or anything!"

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