Following are parts of an interview with Shane Lowry, the sitting The Open Champion. Lowry did not make through the first round of the PGA Tour playoffs so picked the Safeway Open as a tune up for next week’s U.S. Open!
MARK WILLIAMS: Shane Lowry, welcome to the interview room here at the Safeway Open, the first of the 2020-0201 season. You came off a season that you finished 123rd in the FedExCup, a good tournament at Wyndham to make the Playoffs and unfortunately missing the cut in the first one, but now you’re here to start the new season. Just talk about the reason — this is your first start here at the Safeway Open — the reasons that you’re here at the tournament and what you’re looking forward to most.
SHANE LOWRY: Yeah, I mean, obviously I wouldn’t be overly pleased with how I did in, I suppose, last season, you know, but it was a strange one. I felt like I played okay in part and I felt like I had it going before lockdown and I struggled when we came back out and I rallied a little bit to make it to the Playoffs. It was disappointing to play the way I did in Boston, but that’s just the way it is. I’ve had a couple weeks off. And the reason I’m here this week is, you know, U.S. Open next week, don’t really want three weeks off going into the U.S. Open. I’m close, I’m in America. My family are in Ireland, so I couldn’t go back to Ireland because of the quarantine, there was no point, so yeah, I just decided to play here. Got here on Sunday, quite a nice place and I’m looking forward to the week.
MARK WILLIAMS: So, you’ve managed to play 18 holes already here so far. What’s your first impressions of the golf course?
SHANE LOWRY: Yeah, it’s good. I can imagine there’s a lot of birdies, but it gets quite firm and fast. Poa annua greens are tricky to putt on. Yeah, it’s a nice course and it’s a nice place and I like what I see so far, so hopefully I can play okay this week.
MARK WILLIAMS: It probably feels like a little bit of a coup for the tournament to have the current Open champion playing in the field. Is it kind of strange that you get to say that for like an extra year, I guess?
SHANE LOWRY: Yeah, it is a little bit. Obviously, I am, you know, and I will be for another, whatever, eight months or whatever it is, nine months. It’s nice. But obviously, look, it’s very strange times and I still have the Claret Jug at home and it will be nice to have it on the Christmas dinner table here again. I look forward to going back to St. George’s defending next year, but obviously we’ve got a lot of big tournaments between now and then as well.
MARK WILLIAMS: Do you typically play like a week ahead of a major championship? You said you had three weeks off. Is that something you typically try and do or do you try and take a week off beforehand?
SHANE LOWRY: I’ve done it all. To be honest, I didn’t play the week before The Open last year, so I doubt I’ll ever play the week before The Open again. I tried it all and kind of had sort of mixed results. So, you know, like leading into the PGA last year, I didn’t play for three weeks leading into it and I played okay that week. Didn’t play the week before The Open. But I just felt, you know, I’m here in America. I would be down in Florida this week just playing golf every day and practicing and probably with my mind too much on the U.S. Open, so it’s nice to get to an event. And look, this is a PGA TOUR event, this is a big event in its own right, so I want to come here and play well. Obviously, I’m thinking about trying to get a bit of form going into Winged Foot next week, but at the end of the day I’m a proud golfer and I want to play well this week. For me, this is the only week that matters right now. Then when I get to Winged Foot next Monday, I’ll start to think about that, but obviously this week first and foremost I want to do well.
Q. Shane, how have you spent the last couple weeks since the Playoffs ended for you?
SHANE LOWRY: I went to — spent a week in Newport with some friends, played a little bit of golf and just hung out. It was quiet enough. Everybody was pretty much on lockdown like most places in the world, definitely where I’ve been anyways. We just kind of took it easy. Then last week I was in Florida just practicing, playing and getting ready. I’ve got some new equipment in the bag, so just trying to get used to that and getting ready for this week. Yeah, trying to get better, I suppose.
Q. What do you know about Winged Foot and how are you trying to prep for it this week, if at all?
SHANE LOWRY: Yeah, I just know it’s going to be hard. I just know it’s going to be one of those courses where you’re going to have to drive it in the fairway and you’re probably going to have every part of your game is going to have to be good to compete next week. Like I said, I’ve got some new equipment in the bag, a new set of irons and a new driver, so I’m trying to get used to that this week and I’m trying to hopefully build some confidence with them going into next week. But like I said earlier, I feel like this week is a PGA TOUR event and doing well in any PGA TOUR event is not easy, so I’m focused really on trying to play as good of golf as I can this week and see where my game is at going into next week, but it will be really nice to have a good week this week.
Q. I was going to ask you a question about being home. You said going home after Winged Foot. Any plans what you’re going to do European Tour-wise?
SHANE LOWRY: Yeah, I’m going to play the Irish Open. So, I’m going to go home after Winged Foot, go straight up north and play the Irish Open and then I’m going to take some time off to be honest. I would like to play Wentworth, but it just doesn’t make sense for me to go over and play Wentworth for one week and have to come back to Ireland and quarantine for two weeks. It’s just something that I can’t do. I’ve been away from my family for too long and I’m missing a certain stage in my daughter’s life that I don’t want to miss and it’s not been nice, but it is what it is. Yeah, so I’m playing the Irish Open, then I have a couple weeks off and then I come back Stateside.
Q. My question is about the U.S. Open. Just curious you haven’t had a chance to visit Winged Foot yet then? If not, what do you know about it? What do you expect to face there? And what have you made of Dustin Johnson’s form over the last while. He’s quite a useful operator obviously in U.S. Opens and there are a lot of other guys, too. Just on those points.
SHANE LOWRY: Yeah, Winged Foot is going to be hard, there’s no doubt about it. I imagine it’s going to be one of the tougher U.S. Opens that we’re going to face. I’ll see what it’s like when I get there. I haven’t been there yet. I’ll just have to wait and see. Look, I heard Jon Rahm’s comments last week saying that it’s going to be over par will probably win the tournament. It excites me a little bit to be able to see what it’s like, but obviously it won’t excite you too much if you don’t have your A-game with you. So, I want to bring my best game there and hopefully perform as well as I can. And look, obviously Dustin, what he’s done over the last while has been incredible, but look, that’s only — that’s why everyone knows — everyone knows that Dustin can do that. I look at those guys at the top of the world like Dustin and Rory and Justin Thomas and Jon Rahm and Brooks and these guys, you look at those guys and when they bring the form that Dustin has brought over the last while, they’re pretty much unbeatable and that’s just the way they are. When guys like myself rack up to big tournaments, we just have to hope we bring our A-game and they don’t. That’s the way I’ve looked at it, that’s the way I’ve looked at it my whole career.