Open champion Shane Lowry vows to have dry week at Dunhill Links

The Open champion is here with the Claret Jug but, unlike the boisterous immediate aftermath of his stunning success at Royal Portrush earlier in the year, Shane Lowry won’t be showing it off with a pint of Guinness in his other hand. The Alfred Dunhill Links Championship may be renowned for being one of the big social weeks on the European Tour, but one of its star attractions this time around has signed the pledge.

Shane Lowry, right, and coach Neil Manchip during a practice round before the 2019 Open Championship at Royal Portrush. Picture: Andrew Redington/Getty

“No, there will be no drink this week as I never drink the week of a tournament,” declared Lowry, speaking at St Andrews in the build up to the $5 million pro-am starting there on Thursday and also at Carnoustie and Kingsbarns. Easier said than done, surely, when the Jigger Inn is calling and people are probably still lining up to buy him a drink and toast him as a major 
winner.

“I will go down to the Jigger Inn, but it will be to have a Diet Coke with lads,” he added. “I always do that with Gerry (McManus, his amateur partner) after our round while my dad is coming over with his brother along with my mum’s brother and one of his friends. It’s their favourite week of the year and, while I will be hanging around with them there will be drink involved.

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“I do dabble a bit on my weeks off (smiling) but never during the week of a tournament. I am here to perform at my best and, ultimately, I am here to win the tournament, so I don’t think I could go down to the Jigger Inn and sit there for a few hours and win the tournament. As a wise man once said to me, ‘none of us turn into geniuses drinking alcohol’.”

While he may have become a major winner, Lowry hasn’t changed one bit as a person on the back of that success on the Antrim coast, as was evident as he conducted a string of media interviews on his first visit to St Andrews, home of the R&A, as the Champion Golfer of the Year.

“It’s pretty cool,” he said of that. “I’ve got the trophy with me this week and, as I am staying in a house by the 18th hole on the Old Course, I might sneak out on to the 18th green to get a picture at some stage. The R&A is here, the golf museum as well and I’ve got the club with me that I am putting into the museum.

“I’m giving them my lob wedge as it got me out of some tricky situations. I didn’t have too many wonder up and downs that week at Portrush as I played good golf, but I hit a great shot to eight feet into the 15th on Sunday to make birdie and put me six ahead with three to play. I don’t find it hard to part with it, but a little 
fella asked me for my putter last week and I was like, ‘are you joking me’.”

Already looking forward to being back here for the 2021 Open Championship so that he can attend his first Champions’ Dinner, Lowry is hoping to cement his lead in the Race to Dubai, though Jon Rahm, who is also in the star-studded field, is breathing down his neck after finishing second in the BMW PGA Championship at Wentworth on Sunday.

“I’ve added my name to a decent list (as Open champion) this year and it would be nice to add it to another one,” admitted Lowry. “It is going to be incredibly difficult to do it. Every week Jon Rahm plays golf, he is finishing in the top 10 and has a chance to win the tournament. He’s just a world-class player.

“I feel I need to look after myself and, if I win the Race to Dubai, it will be one of the highlights of my whole career. But, when I sit down at Christmas this year, I’ll still be pretty happy with what I’ve got.”

By his own admission, Lowry probably wouldn’t have become a major champion if it hadn’t been for Neil Manchip, the Edinburgh man who first started teaching him as the Irish national coach based at Carton House, near Dublin, and had been at his side every step of the way in his professional career.

“If people were to ask me who has been the biggest influence on my professional career, I would say Neil,” said the world No 20. “Not only is he a great coach for me, he’s just a great person to have around. He’s one of my best friends. And, no matter what happens, he will always be part of my team because he’s a really good person to have around.

“He’s so laid back, he’s very positive. I can’t emphasise enough how good he is to have in your camp. I owe a lot to him and I think the relationship we have formed over the years, I way play golf and the way I go about my practice, I think he understands it.

“I feel that if a different coach had got his hands on me when I was younger, it might have been different. I feel very lucky to have met Neil around 15 years go.”

Dane Lucas Bjerregaard is defending his title hoping to kickstart his season after missing 10 cuts in his last 15 events.

“Hopefully some of the good memories from last year can spark a little something and get the game going,” said the 28-year-old, who signed off with a 67 in tough conditions at St Andrews 12 months 
ago to pip hat-trick seeking Tyrrell Hatton and Tommy Fleetwood.