Open champion Shane Lowry says it feels 'strange' not to be defending his title

Irishman says he’d ‘love’ to be at Royal St George’s this week

Shane Lowry celebrates with his wife Wendy and daughter Iris after his victory in last year's Open Championship at Royal Portrush. Picture: Getty Images
Shane Lowry celebrates with his wife Wendy and daughter Iris after his victory in last year's Open Championship at Royal Portrush. Picture: Getty Images

He should have been sitting in the interview area in the Open Championship media centre at Royal St George's in front of a packed house.

Instead, Shane Lowry found himself looking at a solitary camera with hardly anyone in the room as he took part in a Zoom call for the Memorial Tournament in Columbus, Ohio.

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Lowry's Claret Jug title defence has been put on hold until next July due to the R&A cancelling this year's Open due to the Covid-19 pandemic.

It's the first time the game's oldest major is not taking place since 1945, leaving the Irishman as the longest Open champion since Englishman Dick Burton held the title between 1939 and 1946.

"I wouldn't say it's bittersweet, but it is strange," admitted Lowry as he prepared to tee up in a PGA Tour event in the middle of the US instead of a major on the Kent coast.

"I don't really dwell on things too much that happen, so it is what it is right now, and we kind of have to deal with the cards we're given.

"We're certainly not in control of what's happening in the world at the minute. Obviously I'd love to be at St George's this week defending.

"I'd love if we were playing in front of 40,000 or 50,000 people this week. I'd love, like everybody in the world, if things were back to normal, but they're not, and we kind of have to get on with that."

Lowry raised a roar at Royal Portrush that carried across the Irish Sea as he landed a brilliant sixp-shot victory in the R&A event on the Antrim coast.

"Every year you get to play in the Open, it's special," he added in reply to being asked what he'll feel he's missing this week. "I've never played in the Open at St George's, so that would have been different this year.

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"But just going back and giving back the Claret Jug and just doing the little things like that. I think just competing in one of the biggest tournaments in the world.

"Look, I miss the crowds, you miss the kind of buzz, the adrenaline you get from that, and I miss all that.

"I miss being announced on the firth tee as defending champion, but I'm sure I'll get that next year. So everything that I miss or that I won't get to do this week, I'm sure I'll get to do next year."

Before leaving his home in Florida for this week's event at Muirfield Village, Lowry enjoyed a timely reminder of the week he became Ireland's newest major champion.

"I was sitting in the house yesterday evening, and I was flicking through the channels, and next thing The Golf Channel popped up and they were showing the final round," he said, smiling.

"So I watched a little bit of it. I didn't stay up late enough to watch it all, but I did watch a little bit of it, and yeah, and just cool looking back on it.

"I've watched it a few times. I think my dad probably watches it every day. He probably sits at home most nights and watches it."

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