After missing the cut in his first two starts in the U.S. Open, Shane Lowry has unlocked the secret of the championship, it seems.
“I’d like to think so, but I haven’t gotten it down quite yet,” said the amiable Irishman.
Lowry tied for ninth two years ago at Chambers Bay, and then last year he held the 54-hole lead at famed Oakmont Country Club, near Pittsburgh, before finishing in a three-way tie for second, three strokes behind winner Dustin Johnson. Chambers Bay and Oakmont aren’t at all alike, of course, but that didn’t seem to matter to Lowry, who knows what’s important when he steps on the tee in this championship.
“I like this type of golf. I like hard courses. I think it suits my game,” said Lowry, 29, who comes into this week’s 117th U.S. Open at Erin Hills ranked 69th in the Official World Golf Ranking. “I don’t know why, but any type of tough course is something I enjoy. I think that’s why I like the U.S. Open.
“Last year, obviously, I had a good chance to win and Dustin played exceptionally well and I made too many mistakes,” Lowry added. “The year before at Chambers Bay I had half a chance with nine or 10 holes to go but couldn’t catch up. So, I feel I can handle this type of golf. I have a bit of confidence.”
When he first arrived at Erin Hills, Lowry’s mind drifted back to Chambers Bay, near Tacoma, Wash. This rolling 7,741-yard course in Wisconsin’s Kettle Moraine region also has him feeling like he’s getting a taste of home. There’s an old-world quality to Erin Hills, even if it’s less than 20 years old.
“It’s a wonderful course. It looks great,” he said. “Better keep it straight off the tee, obviously, with the high grasses. Greens are receptive and in great shape. They’re probably the best I’ve ever seen. … I like it a lot.”
He also liked Oakmont, particularly after a stellar third-round 65 that he completed on Sunday morning in the weather-interrupted championship gave him a four-shot lead with 18 holes remaining. Despite a final-round 76, Lowry was just one of four players to finish under par over 72 holes along with Johnson, Jim Furyk and Scott Piercy. He was within a stroke of Johnson’s lead until three straight bogeys starting at 14 ended his bid.
“Oakmont is such a great course, but it’s such a tough course. It’s easy to make bogeys,” he said. “I wasn’t as sharp as I had been the first three rounds. Obviously, that 65 in the third round was pretty special.”
What did he take from the experience? “Oh, I don’t know,” said Lowry, who has won three times since turning professional in 2009. “It was a bit disappointing, but that was a year ago and I’ve forgotten about it. We all have our times when we don’t play as well as we like and Oakmont is the kind of course where you can make bogeys very easily if you are not on top of your game. We move on and try to get better from it.”
Lowry, who won the Irish Open in 2009 as an amateur, wouldn’t say how much on top of his game he is coming into the year’s second major. “I’m not a long hitter, but I’m not short either. I’m driving it well, which you have to do. I think it should be a very good place for me if I stay within myself.”
Dave Shedloski is an Ohio-based freelance writer who frequently contributes to USGA websites.