Dubai: Shane Lowry, the 2019 Abu Dhabi HSBC Championship and Open Championship winner, is back where his most stellar season to date began, and has sets his sights on even more glory in 2021.
After a coronavirus-disrupted 2020 season meant the Open was cancelled — meaning he is technically still the reigning champion — the Irishman has set out his goals of the upcoming campaign, which gets under way at Abu Dhabi Golf Course on Thursday.
Speaking form the UAE capital ahead of this year’s competition, where he will be looking to regain the title from Race to Dubai champion Lee Westwood, Lowry is full of confidence and is also targeting a spot on the European Ryder Cup team for the first time.
“I have obviously had some success here in Abu Dhabi before, winning in 2019 which set me on my way to my best ever season on tour,” he said. “I have clear targets for the year but the first big one is to win here. My motivation has never been stronger and I go out to win every single week. Hopefully I can hit the ground running and get off to a good start this week.
“It is great to be back at a course where you have done well in the past. I have been great in practice over the past few weeks in the States, but we know that that does not always translate itself on the course. We will just work hard and see where it leaves us.”
With stars such as Westwood, Rory McIlroy, Justin Thomas and Tommy Fleetwood bolstering a strong field in Abu Dhabi, Lowry is relishing the challenge.
“To have so many big players here is a great thing,” the Irishman said. “The course is a little softer than usual so there should be some low scores. Having guys like Rory here always makes it more exciting and it is great to attract players like that as a strong field is always a great thing for the entertainment and for the competition.”
Looking further ahead, there is one thing missing from Lowry’s CV that he wants to put right this year — a place on the Ryder Cup team to face the US at Whistling Straits in Wisconsin come September.
“I had a chance to get on the team back in 2016 — Darren Clarke’s team — and I messed that up myself,” Lowry said. “But the way my career has gone since then, I know I am on the right path to not only get on the plane in September, but to bring back the trophy. This season I aim to get at least another win on the board and head to Whistling Straits and stamp my name on that part of the game.
“Padraig Harrington (the European Ryder Cup captain) is a good friend and we practice together, but we never discuss the Ryder Cup. Obviously I don’t want to rely on a captain’s pick, I want to earn my right to play for Europe on merit.”
Then there is the small matter defending the Open at St George’s in Sandwich in July, a full 24 months after he was the last man to lift the famous Claret Jug.
Despite having held on to the trophy and title for two years, Lowry does not feel any weight on his shoulders about finally going out to defend his title.
“It is a bit strange I am still champion after coronavirus cancelled the event last year,” he said. “But I don’t feel any extra pressure. Hopefully we get to St George’s, hopefully we have fans and hopefully I do well. Defending champion or not, I just go out each week to get the win.
“The one thing last year taught us is not to look to far ahead. They are talking about fans coming back for the Florida Swing in the PGA Tour and the Masters. But I am just happy to be out playing.”
And, without looking any further ahead this week, Lowry added: “It is great to be back here in Abu Dhabi and just doing our jobs.”
Born April 2, 1987 (age 33)
Clara, County Offaly, Ireland
Height 6ft 1in (1.85m)
Turned professional 2009
Professional wins 5
Highest ranking 16 (February 2020)
Wins on tour
PGA Tour 2
European Tour 5
Best results in major championships
Masters Tournament T25 (2020)
PGA Championship T8 (2019)
US Open T2 (2016)
The Open Championship Won (2019)