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putt it right ‘I need to go out and express myself to play the best golf I can’ – Shane Lowry

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Ireland's Shane Lowry on the third hole during a practice round prior to the start of the 2021 US Open at Torrey Pines. Photo: Sean M Haffey/Getty

Ireland's Shane Lowry on the third hole during a practice round prior to the start of the 2021 US Open at Torrey Pines. Photo: Sean M Haffey/Getty

Ireland's Shane Lowry on the third hole during a practice round prior to the start of the 2021 US Open at Torrey Pines. Photo: Sean M Haffey/Getty

There are few more thrilling sights in golf than Shane Lowry in full flow – the fluid swing, the bearded grin after a gentle flick with a wedge sits down obediently near the pin like a faithful hound or the fizzing four-iron that hones in on its intended target like a guided missile.

So while the US Open at a brute like Torrey Pines might not appear to be a propitious canvas for the painting of a Major masterpiece, the Offaly man has the genius to do just that.

Playing with confidence, the Open champion is expecting “a true test of golf”, US Open-style, and while he believes the bombers will have an advantage and that his short game skills will not be fairly rewarded by the hit and hope nature of the thick Kikuyu rough, he’s upbeat about his ability to deal with the pressure of his own high expectations.

“I think it’s like every US Open,” Lowry said of the brutal, par-71 South Course, every inch of its 7,652 yards is protected by Kikuyu, a thick-bladed grass native to East Africa that’s kryptonite to golf’s modern Supermen.

“A US Open for me is a true test of golf, so pretty much every part of your game, and every part of your mentality, will be required to do well here.

“There’s not one thing I can point out. You obviously need to drive the ball in the fairway. I think the longer hitters will have a bit of an advantage because there’s not much trouble out here, only rough, and the further you’re off in the rough, the easier it is.

“If you can hit more fairways, you will do OK. I think the US Open is just a US Open. It’s a test of everything.”

Lowry has a mixed record in the US Open, but if he’s looking for encouragement, he need look no further than his runner-up finish at Oakmont in 2016, where he lost a four-stroke lead through inexperience and Dustin Johnson stole the trophy.

This is likely to be a similarly brutal test and Lowry’s only misgiving is the rough is just too much of a factor this year, especially around the greens.

“I think the rough is actually too thick,” he said. “I think the rough being so thick actually takes a little bit of the skill level out of it.

“When it’s off a tight lie, I think that’s when there’s more skill involved. There’s a lot of times where you get around the greens or miss a green, and it’s a bit of a hit-and-hope, and there’s a bit of luck involved.

“It’s all about leaving yourself in the right spots and taking the big numbers off the card.

“Let your mistakes be bogeys and try and make your birdies when you get your chances.”

While there have been high expectations of Lowry since he won The Open two years ago, he’s his own biggest critic and deals with the pressure by allowing himself the leeway to make the odd mistakes, so confident is he in his ability to absorb a body blow and counterpunch.

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“Look, I have more expectation of myself than anyone else would have of me,” added the Clara man, who plays with Henrik Stenson and Francesco Molinari at 3.29pm (Irish time).

“I sometimes go into tournaments with a bit too much expectation of myself. But there is something about this week that I feel like my form’s been good. I’m playing quite well. I’m quite happy where my game’s at.

“But just because you’ve been playing well or just because you’ve got some good results, golf doesn’t owe you anything. Golf will give you nothing, and you need to go out there and work for everything you get.

“I think I need to go out there and be myself and express myself and allow myself to play the best golf I can, and I hope that’s good enough come Sunday.”

His play from tee to green has been excellent recently, as evidenced by his results — tied ninth in the RBC Heritage, fourth in the PGA Championship and sixth in the Memorial.

Putting is his Achilles heel at times, and when offered a wildcard with his game this week, he had no hesitation.

“Tournaments are won on the greens,” he said. “Give me a really good putting week, and I’ll be hopefully there or thereabouts.”

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