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golfgate 'Maybe it's time to keep them further from us' - Lowry reacts to on-course mic controversy

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Ireland's Shane Lowry plays a shot during practice ahead of the Abu Dhabi HSBC Championship at Abu Dhabi Golf Club today. Photo: Ross Kinnaird/Getty Images

Ireland's Shane Lowry plays a shot during practice ahead of the Abu Dhabi HSBC Championship at Abu Dhabi Golf Club today. Photo: Ross Kinnaird/Getty Images

Ireland's Shane Lowry plays a shot during practice ahead of the Abu Dhabi HSBC Championship at Abu Dhabi Golf Club today. Photo: Ross Kinnaird/Getty Images

Shane Lowry knows from first-hand experience how on-course microphones can get players into trouble.

Shane Lowry reckons golf TV producers could back off with microphones after US star Justin Thomas lost a major sponsor after he was heard uttering a homophobic slur in anger.

World No 3 Thomas, who joins Lowry in this week’s Abu Dhabi HSBC Championship, missed a short putt at the Sentry Tournament of Champions two weeks ago and berated himself with a slur that was caught by a green side microphone.

The American apologised immediately after the round but one of his sponsors, clothing firm Ralph Lauren, decided to cut their ties with him last week.

Lowry, who was fined by the PGA Tour for uttering a four-letter expletive when he hit a ball in the water during the 2016 Honda Classic, did not condone Thomas’ behaviour.

But he believes it might be time for the TV companies to take a step back to avoid broadcasting controversial remarks uttered in the heat of competition.

"I got caught out before," Lowry admitted. "I got penalised for it. It’s tricky. We’re out there, it’s your livelihood. You’re out there under high-pressure situations. The way I am, I wear my heart on my sleeve. I give my best every day. Sometimes I can get a bit hot under the collar.

"You need to be careful what you do say and you need to watch what you’re saying because people are watching at home. The microphones do get very close at times, especially when you’re under a high-pressure situation.

"I’m not condoning what anyone says, I’m not saying we should be allowed to say what we want, but if people keep getting caught out and people don’t like what they’re hearing, maybe it’s time to keep them a bit further from us."

Lowry knows that fans love to hear the interaction between players and caddies but he believes there needs to be a balance.

"It’s just a tricky situation," said Lowry, who will tee it up with Justin Rose and Tommy Fleetwood (0805 Irish time).

"People at home - Phil Mickelson and Bones are famous for their conversations, there's one from The Open of myself and Bo and it’s great in those situations that people really get to interact and see how we go about our business.

"But, in another situation, when people hit bad shots, they’re going to let out anger and you have to weigh up the options and see what’s the best."

Lowry returns to action in Abu Dhabi hoping to make a fast start to 2021 with his number one goal a place on Pádraig Harrington’s Ryder Cup team to face the USA at Whistling Straits in November.

"I think if I get another win on the board and head to America in September and win the Ryder Cup that’s my goal for the year," Lowry said of what would constitute a success season.

"To focus on myself and try and get another win on the board soon enough and then hopefully go to Whistling Straits in September and bring back the Ryder Cup to Europe.

"Obviously I want to make the team but I also want to go out there and win as well, stamp my name on that part of golf."

As for the postponement of this year’s JP McManus Pro-Am until 4-5 July 2022, he said: "Obviously the way that they run it, they want to do it properly and they obviously don’t think they’ll be able to do that in July with 40,000 people around Adare Manor which I would agree with."

With Covid-19 still rampant workdwide, Lowry is keeping his fingers crossed that golf’s Majors, the Olympics and the Ryder Cup can go ahead, even with limited fans.

"Hopefully we get back to a stage where we have some fans but like I said I’m just happy to be doing my job and playing golf and I think we all are," he said.

"The fact that we’re all competing, and we’re here in Abu Dhabi this year with the prize fund gone up a million dollars [to $8 million]. It’s incredible what both tours have done, the European Tour and the PGA Tour, and it’s great to be back playing and doing our jobs, and it has been for around six months now.

"I’d be fairly optimistic in thinking everything will go ahead, it’s just how much of a level of normality will it be, who knows."

Rory McIlroy has been drawn with American star Thomas and Lee Westwood (0330 Irish time on Thursday) with Harrington draw with Ryder Cup hopefuls, Frenchman Victor Perez and Scot Robert Macintyre (0400 Irish time),

Graeme McDowell tees it up with Belgium’s Thomas Pieters and Dane Rasmus Hojgaard (0815 Irish time).

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