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Rivals will now fear my name, maintains Lowry

 

Happy homecoming: Shane Lowry in Dublin yesterday
Happy homecoming: Shane Lowry in Dublin yesterday
The conquering hero and wife Wendy get a rapturous welcome in the golfer’s home town of Clara

By Brian Keogh

Two minutes stood between Shane Lowry and golfing immortality and eternal torture on Sunday. Two life-changing minutes.

Had he missed his eight-footer for bogey on the first green and Tommy Fleetwood made his for birdie, the only thing he knows for certain is that he would have fought to the bitter, and potentially heartbreaking, end.

He felt he'd capitulated in the final round of the 2016 US Open at Oakmont, and failed to give his all when his four-shot lead disappeared. But this time he found he had what he described as "the b***s" to complete what still feels like a surreal victory and claim his first Major title.

"You look at the people who have won one and you look at the names on that trophy," he said, the Claret Jug glittering on the table in the beer garden of House Dublin, an upmarket Leeson Street bar.

"Then you look at the great golfers that haven't won one. It's like, 'Oh my God, I've won one'.

"You always have doubts in your head. You always have doubts about if you're good enough, if you're good enough to get the job done, or if you put yourself in the position, do you have the b***s.

"That's what it is - do you have the b***s to go out there and do it because that's what it takes. I've had a couple of bad Sundays in Majors and one particularly bad one. It would have been quite difficult if I didn't win on Sunday, going out with another four-shot lead."

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As it turned out, Lowry made, Fleetwood missed and, while the lead was down to three, Offaly's first Major was on its way.

"It could have gone pear-shaped easily enough," Lowry said of the stormy Sunday that will change people's perception of him and what he can do.

"The putt on that first hole, people underestimate how difficult that putt was," Lowry said. "The whole scenario, that two minutes on the first green, Tommy missing his and me holing mine. He holes, I miss, there's only one in it and suddenly I'm starting to think about all sorts."

Just four hours later he was striding up the 18th wishing he could stop time and let the noise wash over him for all eternity.

"I said to (caddie) Bo walking down 18 on Sunday, 'I can't believe this is happening to me, I just cannot believe it'. I'm standing there and I'm trying to take the whole thing in and I just can't," he said.

"I don't have enough time to take it all in. You'd love to be able to stand there forever. It's the most amazing feeling."

So what now?

Given the celebrations, Lowry has hardly had time to think, but he at least knows he can answer the big questions and that his name will give others pause for thought if they see it on a Major leaderboard or a Ryder Cup team sheet.

For now, the only name that gives him pause is his own.

"I can't stop looking at my name on it," he said, looking at the famous old trophy before being bombarded by questions from the assembled media.

Is this a stepping stone?

"I've no idea."

How many more Majors can he win?

"I'm happy with this now. If I end up with only one Major, obviously you'd like to have more, but one's enough for now."

For now, it's all too big, too 'surreal'.

"I honestly haven't had a chance to think straight over the last couple of days. I have hundreds of texts messages to get through. But I am a very ambitious person so I am obviously going to want to do bigger things in the game," he said.

"The way I won and how I did it and where I won, I think it was incredible. And if you were to write down all the tournaments that I am going to play over my whole career that you'd want to win, and you were to pick one, that would be very near the top of the list."

As for the outpouring of goodwill, he was grateful.

"Irish people are great. They follow us in everything we do," he said. "If there's a bandwagon, they will jump on it."

He revealed he hummed 'Baby Shark' all the way around having been forced to put the maddening children's tune on for his daughter Iris as they travelled to the course on Sunday.

He ate little. Breakfast was "two small slices of brown bread, one slice of bacon and one egg scrambled". No lunch.

"I had a banana and a protein bar on the course just to keep me going. I felt sick with nerves all day," he said.

He still proved he had the stomach for battle, and making Padraig Harrington's Ryder Cup team for Whistling Straits is the big goal now.

The bigger the event, the more he enjoys it.

"I had a good chance to make the team a few years ago and I didn't and I was very jealous, envious of the guys playing, and I just want to experience it," he said.

"I'm ambitious and I don't want to miss out on it, I want to see what it's like and obviously next year, to play with Paddy as captain would be great as well."

Believing he'd be a tough opponent for anyone, he said: "The way my game is, I drive the ball alright and I chip quite well and if I hole a few putts I can be dangerous."

He didn't just win a Major, he won self-belief and the right to intimidate people with his name alone.

"I'm my own person and I do things the way I want to, and as long as I feel that's the right thing, I can turn up at an event and feel like I can beat anyone," he said. "People will know if my name is on the leaderboard on Sunday in Augusta, they know I can get the job done.

"I went out there on Saturday and shot one of the best rounds of my life, probably under the most pressure I've ever felt. It can't help but give me confidence."

It all came down to those two minutes on the first green.

"I said to myself, 'No matter what happens here, I'm going to fight to the bitter end'," he said. "I don't think I did that at Oakmont."

He'd found his X-factor.

"I don't think I had it then," he said of that Sunday.

And now?

"I have it now."

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