Brian Keogh: Shane Lowry needs a run on the greens to banish the winter blues
Putting has let the 29-year old down this season20:31 Wednesday 12 October 2016, 20:31 12 Oct 2016
Happiness, they say, is a long walk with a putter.
Just ask Jordan Spieth or Patrick Reed or even Rory McIlroy, whose putting makeover in September turned a decidedly mediocre season into a lucrative one.
McIlroy can win without putting well — see the Dubai Duty Free Irish Open as an example. But Lowry is a mere mortal and one could argue that his season might have been career defining had it not been for a rather lukewarm blade.
We may be way off the mark given his fragile putting confidence this year. Lowry has been under so much self-inflicted pressure to perform that he somehow ended up failing to qualify for the Ryder Cup team.
From the highs of the succulent fare of the WGC-Bridgestone Invitational victory last year, 2016 has been a year of decidedly slim pickings.
As Paul McGinley pointed out after Lowry’s Bridgestone Invitational win, the year was going to depend on good decision-making as much as good golf and the Offaly man never settled. And the pressure grew exponentially.
“Where he is going to base himself? How much he is going to play? How is he going to tackle new venues? He’s got massive decisions to make in the next six months on top of all that the extra press coverage and extra attention that’s going to be based on that, having won such a big tournament,” McGinley mused. “I am excited for Shane but I also know that this crossroads in his career with the new doors that open, also provides big challenges as well.”
Staying in the present is always a challenge for a golfer and while he tried to shy away from the questions, it was only human for Lowry to dream of what was within touching distance.
After he skipped the European Tour’s “Desert Swing” and finished 13th and sixth in San Diego and Phoenix in his first two starts, the season never got going until the US Open.
Ironically for a man who had a five putt and a three putt to miss the cut in the BMW PGA at Wentworth, Lowry had a good feeling about his putting at Oakmont and was proved correct.
Had the feeling lasted 72 holes rather than just 68, he might have won his maiden major and gone on to make the Ryder Cup team.
Instead he three-putted the 14th, 15th and 16th for bogeys and a 76, finishing three behind Dustin Johnson in a tie for second with Jim Furyk and Scott Piercy on 1-under par.
The disappointment was so great that Lowry failed to mount a challenge for a spot on Darren Clarke’s team that appeared to be his for the taking.
And he now finds himself at the tail end of the season looking for momentum for 2017.
The post-season chat may well bring more comment on his waist size, which has been blamed for his late afternoon mistakes at Oakmont. But looking at the statistics on both sides of the Atlantic, it’s been putting that has let the 29-year old down this season.
His game is based around strong driving, metronomic iron play and an almost magical touch with a lob wedge rather than a Spieth-like ability to slot home putts from all angles.
The incredibly detailed PGA Tour statistics show that he had just three positive weeks in terms of strokes gained putting from his nine PGA Tour starts outside the majors and WGCs.
Twelve months ago he finished second in the British Masters at Woburn, holing almost nothing on the greens for four days running.
“Woeful putting is the only term I can use,” he said.
A few weeks later in Dubai he explained that overthinking, especially when it comes to putting, has never worked for him.
“A lot of people are out there with their gadgets on the putting green,” he said. “That's not me, so I'm not going to start doing it now.”
Golf is a game of hot and cold streaks and Lowry’s putter has spent long periods of 2016 in the fridge.
“I'm a believer that maybe four or five times a year, your game fully comes together and you've just got to take advantage of that when it does,” the Clara man said 12 months ago.
So far, he hasn’t quite managed to cash in but as McIlroy discovered in the FedEx Cup and even the Ryder Cup, nothing banishes the blues like a run on the greens.
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