Shane Lowry might not like the added pressure but one man believes he can become Open champion this week — Pádraig Harrington.
The Dubliner, 45, is bidding to turn back time and become a four-time major winner at the scene of his second Open win in 2008.
But with 2011 champion Darren Clarke in the doldrums and 2014 winner Rory McIlroy an unknown factor after his struggles to regain his form after a rib injury, Lowry might just be the man to bring the Claret Jug back to Ireland for the fifth time since Fred Daly won in 1947.
“Shane can definitely win,” Harrington said of the four-pronged Irish challenge. “And obviously myself and Rory and Darren have done it before.
“But obviously, Shane is the new man on the block. Physically, he’s got the game.
“He knows how to play links golf. He knows how to win on the big occasion.”
Lowry has won just two tournaments as a professional since he made headlines around the world by winning the 2009 Irish Open as a 22-year old amateur on his first appearance in a professional event.
That Baltray win told Harrington that this was a special talent and after seeing Lowry hold off major winners Bubba Watson, Justin Rose and Jim Furyk to win the WGC-Bridgestone Invitational in Akron in 2015, he knows he can do it again.
Harrington said: “I think that’s probably the biggest thing for Shane — his wins.
“When he won the Irish Open as an amateur, that was probably bigger in terms of stress and pressure than it would be for him to win this week.
“It was more out of the blue for an amateur to win on Tour. And by winning the Bridgestone, again, he showed he can handle the big occasions.”
That doesn’t mean that Harrington doesn’t believe he can win.
And like 2008, when he didn’t play a practice round as he nursed a wrist injury, he’s lightly raced this season.
A major neck operation kept him out of action from mid-March to early May.
And despite another injury scare when he was hit on the elbow by an amateur last month, missing another event, he showed with his fourth place finish in the Scottish Open on Sunday that he’s close to peaking again.
Harrington, 45, is bidding to become the oldest Open champion since Roberto de Vicenzo won aged 44 years and 93 days in 1967.
Just don’t ask him if he believes he’s a realistic title contender.
“Look, I’m amazed you have to ask that question of me,” he said at Royal Birkdale yesterday.
“I will always go back to the Shane Lowry quote, I think I’m going to win the week I’m not playing!
“Clearly I think I’m a credible contender on any golf course, but bring me to a links golf course, no doubt about it, it gives me an advantage.”
Winning in sensational style with a walk-off eagle in 2008 made up for the near disaster at Carnoustie in 2007, when found water twice on the 72nd hole and made to get up and down to save double bogey and eventually make a playoff with Sergio Garcia.
He said: “It was nice to come back here. I think I won from the wrong side of the draw; I was in the last group Sunday. I played great, swung the club great, hit a great shot on the 71st hole.
“I did everything you dream about doing as a kid to win a major.”
Nine years on, he’s not the same player or person but his competitive fire still burns brightly and he believes he can win,
“This week, I’ve come in in a bit of form,” he said 24 hours after closing with a 66 to finish fourth in the Scottish Open.
“So I’m playing decent golf and trying to contend.”
Harrington wants to bask in the glory of his 2008 win, but he also wants to conserve his energy so he’s ready if another major winning chance comes his way.
Clarke, Ernie Els, Phil Mickelson and Henrik Stenson are four players to win the Open in their 40s since 2012 and Harrington knows that experience will trump power this week.
Asked about The Open’s tendency to throw up more older champions than the other majors, he said: “Clearly because obviously an Open Championship can be played by a shorter hitter. That’s why an older guy can compete with the younger guys.
“Plus experience. A lot of the younger guys are physically gifted, but they don’t have the experience with links golf.
“Assuming decent, tough enough conditions, it’s a tournament for experience. Everybody can compete — short and long hitters. It’s not one dimensional, The Open Championship.”
from News – Irish Golf Desk http://ift.tt/2vjXFF6