Paul Kimmage meets Shane Lowry: Lessons learned from social media, US Open heartbreak and the long road back
We were sitting having coffee at home last month when my brother started raving about Shane Lowry.
He’s a long-suffering Liverpool fan and it takes a lot to get him excited but he had been following Lowry all week at the Abu Dhabi Championship and could not have been more impressed.
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“What about that putt on 17?” he enthused. “And his shot to the 18th green? Jaysus that took some balls!”
And I laughed and had to suppress the urge to pinch him.
See, there was a time not so long ago chez nous when ‘balls’ was a word that didn’t apply to golf. It wasn’t cycling or running or boxing or swimming or racing or hurling or football. No golfer had ever died trying to reach their Everest. They went to war on well-nourished stomachs and cashmere sleeves and didn’t fracture or cut or bleed.
I’d written a column on the theme once (‘Can you talk of courage in a golfing context?’) in the summer of 1995 and incurred the wrath of a young Paul McGinley.
“You got that wrong,” he said.
“I don’t think so,” I replied.
“I’m telling you,” he insisted. “Golf leaves more scars than any other game.”
Eight months later, Greg Norman blew a six-shot lead at the Masters and it was obvious he was right.
Lowry’s scars run pretty deep. In August 2016, he went out in the final round of the US Open at Oakmont hoping to become the sixth Irishman to win a Major. He was leading by four and playing the golf of his life but endured a meltdown that would send his career into a tailspin.
The leading player in Europe this season, he was in California last week for the AT&T Pro-Am where we pulled up two chairs at The Lodge in Pebble Beach and spoke about his return to the summit.
But mostly we spoke about sleep.
1 How the mind works
He lost it Saturday. In bed. Ask any of the great players and they will explain it. They’ll tell you that no player wants, or ever sets out, to go wire-to-wire at a Major. They’ll tell you that the pressure of sleeping with the lead for three straight nights can be an unbearable strain. They’ll tell you that’s where Greg Norman lost the ’96 Masters. On the pillow. Between the sheets.
April 21, 1996
Paul Kimmage: I’d like to start Shane, please, with the journey from Dublin and your first night at Pebble Beach.
Shane Lowry: We landed in San Francisco close to five and I was picked up in a car at the airport and got here around eight. I had some room service, went to bed around nine and woke up thinking: ‘Please God let it be at least five.’ But I looked at my phone and it was half eleven!
SL: I dozed for a couple of hours, but was wide awake at two and called Wendy (his wife) at home for a chat. It was a long night, you’re just counting down the hours until you can go for breakfast. This is one of the tougher trips; I knew coming over it was going to be bad. Five hours (flying west) is okay, but eight is hard.
PK: How are your sleeping patterns in general?
SL: At home, I get about seven or eight hours a night. I’m usually in bed around ten.
PK: Ten is early.
SL: Yeah, we’ll have dinner and watch TV. Iris (daughter) is usually awake around seven so we don’t stay up too late. At a tournament, once I’m in the time zone, I’m a pretty good sleeper and usually get about eight hours at least.
PK: What about the big moments? How do you sleep when you have a chance to win?
SL: I generally sleep okay. I was nervous in Baltray but definitely slept that night. And I was fine at the Bridgestone. I went for a nice dinner on the Saturday night with a good friend, Alan Clancy, and was up about eight. The biggest one was Oakmont, but I think that was solely because of the restart, I think I was up about half four that morning (to finish the third round.)
PK: What about Abu Dhabi? Didn’t I read somewhere that you woke up thinking about Iris?
PK: Tell me about that?
SL: Well, obviously things were good. Wendy and Iris were there and I was leading the tournament and it was Neil’s (his coach, Neil Manchip) birthday so we went for an early dinner. I was a bit nervous but had no problem getting to sleep and woke up around two to go to the toilet with all these thoughts going through my head . . . It was weird.
PK: You were at the Masters with Iris?
PK: She was following you in the par 3 tournament?
PK: What were the other thoughts?
SL: You see yourself winning . . . you see yourself holding the trophy . . . you see yourself walking down the last with a two or three-shot lead, happy . . . and then, on the (flip side), you see yourself messing up. I remember talking to Wendy about it that morning when we were having breakfast:
“Will you do me a favour?”
“No matter what happens today, will you have Iris there for me?”
So I knew she was going to be there, I was just hoping it would be in good circumstances. You see the soccer players and the rugby players with their kids on the pitch and it was a big thing for me. I thought: ‘I’ll be very disappointed if I don’t win but seeing her will put a smile on my face.’
PK: And maybe help your perspective?
SL: Yeah, but to be honest I’m also looking for a cop-out: ‘Okay, so I didn’t win but I have (my little girl).’
SL: It’s true.
PK: Go back to that thought about taking her to the Masters.
SL: Yeah, I could see her, literally see her, running around the lovely green grass in a little white caddie’s suit.
PK: Where did that come from?
SL: I don’t know . . . of all the things to come into my head.
PK: You weren’t born in ’82 when your father won the All-Ireland?
PK: So it’s not a memory of sharing that?
SL: No, my memories of him playing are bad (laughs) – playing Division Whatever in the league.
PK: So it has nothing to do with your relationship with your father?
SL: Well, I went everywhere – and I mean everywhere – with my da when I was younger. He trained Westmeath for three years and I would have been with him at every training session; he used to play soccer for Clara Town and I’d be on the bus with him every Sunday and in the pubs on the way home. So it could be that.
PK: It just struck me as really unusual – that one of the things you craved most about winning in Abu Dhabi was the chance to take your daughter to Augusta.
SL: That’s just me. I’m not afraid to say what I think, or what I was thinking, and there were plenty of other thoughts. I thought a lot about Oakmont in those 12 or so hours, but that’s just how the mind works, isn’t it?
Shane Lowry began the final day of the US Open by making two birdies to tie an Oakmont record, post the best score of the third round and build a four-shot lead going into the final round Sunday afternoon. Lowry pumped his fist when he holed a six-foot par putt on the 18th hole for a 5-under 65. “That’s one of the best rounds of my career right there,” Lowry said. “A 65 on this golf course, against this field, is pretty good.”
Sunday, June 19, 2016
PK: The last time we sat down together was March 2016. You had won three times at that point – the Irish Open in 2009, the Portuguese Masters in 2012 and the Bridgestone Invitational in 2015. I asked you to compare them and you said: “The Irish Open got me my card in Europe and allowed me to find my feet; the Bridgestone gets me my card in America and puts me in all the big tournaments.”
PK: Two weeks later you finished tied 39th at the Masters; a month after that you finished tied 16th at the Players’ Championship; and a month after that, you are leading the US Open going into the final round.
PK: You were up early that morning to finish the third round?
SL: Yeah, I played the last four in two-under, and holed a great 12-footer for par on the last which was huge.
PK: And now you’re leading the tournament by . . .
PK: How many times had you gone into a final round with a four-shot lead?
PK: So uncharted territory?
PK: How old were you in ’96 when Greg Norman led the Masters?
SL: Nine, but I wouldn’t even have been watching golf back then.
PK: What about Rory (at the Masters) in 2011?
SL: Yeah, I watched that. I remember feeling unbelievably sorry for him . . . you put yourself in his shoes: ‘Jesus! I can’t imagine what he’s going through.’ Little did I know I’d get to experience it.
PK: Talk me through it: you sign your card for a 65 and you’re obviously buzzing. What happens next?
SL: I got back to the house around 8.30. We had a chef with us that week. I had a second breakfast and thought, ‘Right, I’m going to go up and have a sleep.’ I stared at the walls for an hour but couldn’t sleep. I’m not good at napping during the day, never do it, so I came back down and watched some GAA.
PK: One of the more endearing traits of Irish people is the way we engage and root for our sport stars when they’re doing well. You would have stopped the country that day.
SL: Yeah, I was on social media that morning, which was probably a mistake, and it was literally blowing up with people talking about it. And when you do something like that . . . I had my Dad there, and it was Father’s Day, and I wouldn’t be one to tell my da I love him, and he wouldn’t be one to tell me, but we’re very close. I wanted nothing more than to hand him that trophy on Father’s Day, and it kind of killed me.
PK: It sounds like you broke every lesson in the sports psychology book – engaging with social media, the attachment to your father. How did you even manage to pick up a club?
SL: I got to the range and was fine going through the warm-up. Then I got to the first tee and the nerves really hit. I hit my tee shot left, and my second shot over the back of the green, but I hit a nice chip and holed a little four-footer down the hill for par, which was a nice way to start. Then I walk to the second tee and (he pauses for a moment) . . . it wasn’t that I lost the tournament there, but it was definitely a mistake.
PK: Go on.
SL: They had moved the tee (forward) and (the hole was) driveable, and I was driving the ball unbelievably well but I said to Dermot (his caddie, Dermot Byrne): “I think we just need to start with a few pars here.” So I laid-up and that was stupid to be honest.
SL: Because birdies are hard to come by on a course like Oakmont, and they’re almost giving you one here. Okay, it’s not a gift, but the way I was driving the ball and putting it was nearly a gift. Have a look at the coverage, everybody hit driver! But I end up making bogey there.
PK: Dermot didn’t say anything?
PK: He didn’t try to change your mind?
SL: No, but that was the relationship we had – if I was feeling something he’d go with it.
PK: You’re not generally a man who lays up?
SL: No, I wouldn’t back away from a drivable par four.
PK: So this was unusual?
SL: Very unusual, but it’s amazing what being in that position does to you.
PK: You bogey four of the first ten holes but you’re still tied for the lead on 12?
SL: Yeah, but because I’d started with a four-shot lead it felt like I was behind or losing it. I hit a wedge into 11 that needed to be long and right, but it pitched close to the flag and spun off the green. It was a mental error, and I remember handing Dermot (the club) and looking at the ground and saying, and they caught it on the (TV) mic because I’ve watched it back, “Everything seems to be happening so quick.” And I couldn’t understand why. And before I knew it I was standing on the 18th tee and the tournament was over.
PK: You three-putted the 14th, 15th, and 16th?
SL: Yeah, well, if you were offering me the chance to do it again I’d hit driver on the second tee, but the place I’d really like to go back to is the 14th fairway. I had 130 yards to the hole with a wedge in my hand and bogeyed it; I hit the fairway on 15 and had a 9-iron in my hand and bogeyed it; then I hit another good shot into the next and bogeyed that as well. And that’s where I lost the tournament.
PK: There’s a word – an awful word – often attributed to golfers who endure something like that.
SL: I don’t think I choked.
PK: You don’t?
SL: (Long pause)
PK: But it feels like it?
SL: It probably looks like it.
PK: Does it feel like it?
SL: I don’t know. What are you supposed to feel? Did I play the last ten holes in four over? Yes. But it’s one of the toughest golf courses in the world, and one of the toughest scenarios you can face. I was hitting the ball well but my putter left me for nine holes – that’s where I lost it. I don’t think I choked, I just didn’t go out and win.
PK: You said you threw it away: “It was there for the taking and I didn’t take it.”
SL: But I don’t think I choked.
PK: What’s the difference between throwing it away and choking?
SL: Yeah, but I don’t know what choking is. How do you define it? I would say it’s letting your nerves get the better of you, that’s how I would define it. Whereas if you just hit bad shots and make mistakes through error . . .
SL: Listen, it’s a word we don’t like to use. You never want to say you choked.
SL: You’d rather say “I fucked it away” than “I choked”.
PK: I spoke to Dermot last year for a piece I was writing on caddies, and what the Majors mean to them. He said the thing he remembered most about your second-place finish at Oakmont was driving to New York the next day – he was crying so hard he had to stop several times and ended up missing his flight.
SL: I didn’t know that.
PK: How was it for you?
SL: It was brutal, honestly. I had a golf day at Royal Dublin with HNA, the sponsors of the French Open, the next day. I still hadn’t seen Wendy at that stage and had to give a clinic and play 18 holes, so you can imagine what that was like. I got home later that night and woke up on Tuesday morning and just absolutely broke down. It was devastating. I didn’t get over it for a long time.
PK: Yeah, I’m coming to that.
3 “You’re married, right?”
Shane Lowry is searching for a new caddie to see him through the next stage of the season after announcing he and long-term bagman Dermot Byrne are taking a break. The decision was revealed as the world number 90 crashed out of the Open following a second round two-over-par 73 at Carnoustie yesterday, which left him outside the cutline at five over par. Lowry has had Byrne on his bag since 2009, but yesterday his duties were undertaken by coach Neil Manchip for the second round. Lowry, 31, declined a request to talk to media post-round, but a management company spokesman said: “Shane and Dermot have decided to take a break from working together for the upcoming schedule of tournaments in the US.”
Saturday, July 21, 2018
PK: I’ve got a couple of quotes from you here about Oakmont. This is from immediately after the final round: “Bitterly disappointed. You know it’s not easy to get yourself in a position I got myself in today. It was there for the taking and I didn’t take it. The more I think about it the more upset I’m getting. It’s one of those that’s going to be hard to take. It’s going to be a tough few days.”
PK: This is from a couple of months later: “Golf is a strange game, because after finishing second in one of the biggest tournaments in the world you have such disappointment. It’s weird. But there are so many positives to take from the US Open. I think that, going forward, I’ll be able to look back on it as a week that stood out, that helped me. When I put myself in that position next time, I’ll be okay.” And that’s kind of interesting given what happened next because it didn’t help you.
SL: Yeah. Look, when you’re doing those interviews you’re just trying to say the right thing. I mean, you’re reading me these quotes and I genuinely don’t know what’s going to come out of your mouth!
SL: And people were still talking about it a year later, I was like: “Jesus! Will it ever stop!” I can only imagine what it was like for guys that went through their career without winning one – the likes of Monty (Colin Montgomerie). How many days did he have like I had at Oakmont?
PK: The thing that interests me is the impact. Your next event is the Scottish Open where you miss the cut; then you miss the cut at the Open and play poorly for the rest of the year?
SL: Yeah, I’m in the team for the Ryder Cup after that US Open, I just need to play okay for the next few months. So the attention turned to that, and people asking about that, and I wasn’t used to that either. And not making that team was a real disappointment.
PK: So now we’re into 2017 and a performance consultant, Gerry Hussey, travels out to meet you at the Genesis Open in Los Angeles.
PK: And that’s interesting because you’ve never really engaged with sports psychology before.
SL: No, I find it hard to buy into that stuff: ‘Okay, you’ve hit a bad shot now clear it out of your mind as quick as you can.’ I just find all that so . . . forced. I’m very much a get-up-in-the-morning-and-do-what-I-feel type of guy, and it got to a stage where I thought: ‘Am I doing this because I want to? Or because everybody is telling me?’ Neil, who knows me better than anyone, will tell you: “When Shane decides to do something himself is when it’s the right thing to do.”
PK: So why was this the wrong thing to do?
SL: I’m not saying it was the wrong thing. I enjoyed spending time with Gerry. We used to meet in the Phoenix Park and walk around for two hours with a coffee, talking about life and such – nothing to do with golf. I always felt good after it, but I didn’t want him involved in what I was doing on the course. I don’t like change. I’m not a big person for change. I have the same manager and the same coach and had the same caddie for nine years.
PK: You said everyone was telling you?
PK: ‘You need to talk to somebody.’
SL: Yeah, and I thought, ‘Maybe I should?’ But I only half-bought into it, and I think when you do something like that you need to be 100 per cent.
PK: You miss the cut at the Masters and at the Open and finish tied 46th and tied 48th at the US Open and the PGA. You make 11 out of 16 cuts on the PGA Tour, win $800k in prizemoney and finish 127th in the FedEx Cup. So not the season you were hoping for?
SL: No, it was average. It was below average, actually.
PK: And now your world ranking has started to slide from 17th in November 2015, to 62nd two years later?
SL: Yeah, things went a bit downhill. You feel like you’re putting in more and more effort but you’re not getting the results. So I thought: ‘I’ll move to America and get a place there.’
PK: For 2018?
SL: Yeah. We got a place in Florida and I loved it there, and Wendy loved it, but I got off to a bad start again . . . I’m not sure how many cuts I missed.
PK: You played in 19 events and made 13 cuts.
SL: Okay, so I missed six cuts which is not great.
PK: And you didn’t qualify for the Masters.
SL: No. It was awful not being there. I came home that week for the first time since January and remember looking at it and you’re . . . yeah, I was jealous. I get jealous sometimes when I see someone winning a big tournament and feel I’m as good or better than them. I’m happy when it’s a friend but even then you’re a bit jealous.
SL: Yeah, you really want to be there.
PK: These are your results in the weeks following the Masters: Tied 15th at the PGA in Wentworth, missed cut at the US Open, tied 16th at French Open, tied 28th at Irish Open and a missed cut at the Open in Carnoustie. So not great?
PK: And you’re a man who doesn’t like change but you decide to make a huge change?
SL: (Groans) Oh God.
PK: What happened with Dermot?
SL: That first round at Carnoustie was just . . . I got off to a decent start and then made a couple of mistakes and we tried to have a chat after the round but it turned into an argument. I threw my toys out of the pram and left the golf course, didn’t do any practice. He came up to the house that night and we finished it. It was the hardest thing I have ever had to do.
SL: He is such a close friend and one of the biggest influences in my professional career. We had been together for nine years and did everything together but you’ve (listed) the results and something had to give. I wasn’t enjoying my golf. I was angry on the course and hard to work for and that wasn’t suiting me and it wasn’t suiting him.
PK: Neil caddied for you in the second round?
SL: Yeah, that was wrong.
PK: Not to have waited until after the tournament?
SL: Yeah, stupid, I regret that. But another thing with me is that I hate confrontation. I can’t deal with it.
PK: Tease that out for me. You’re married, right?
SL: (Laughs) Yeah, and there’s plenty of confrontation there – everyone argues with their wife, or girlfriend – but I just hate it. I’m like: “Why are we arguing? What’s the point? Why can’t everything just be great?”
SL: I like things to be good.
PK: So what if you’re out of order and Wendy pulls you on it?
SL: I’m not great to be honest.
PK: Are you better at pulling her up?
SL: Look, we’re all better at that. We always want to be right. We never want to blame ourselves, but I’ll be the first to say sorry because I don’t like when it’s prolonged. I was sad when it finished with Dermot. We were very close and had a successful time together but I’d reached a situation where I felt I had to be selfish. But it’s funny . . . you see him now with another player and it’s like looking at your missus with another man.
SL: It’s weird.
PK: Where does that weekend sit in terms of your career? Is rock bottom too strong?
SL: Well, I obviously had some rocky patches here and there, but the graph was going in the right direction from the day I turned pro. Now the graph was going in the wrong direction, and I had reached a stage where I just didn’t know what to do.
4 A stupid game
That night, Richie Connor brought the cup back to Walsh Island. On Wednesday they hit Ferbane, where green, white and gold Fianna Fáil election posters had been doctored to read: ‘Welcome to Lowry Country’. Back in Offaly, Edenderry came after Ferbane. That night Richie Connor called Seán Lowry aside. ‘I’ve something to show you,’ he said. He reached into his jacket and pulled out a crumpled envelope. The address read: ‘Richie Connor, Offaly captain, Offaly. The handwriting looked feeble. Lowry took out the letter. It was from an old woman in Fermanagh, thanking Richie and Offaly for the joy they had brought her on Sunday.
Kings of September
PK: Okay, so you touch rock bottom and make this really difficult decision and then something happens that makes no sense at all. Your brother Alan takes the bag and in the three weeks that follow you finish tied 12th at the Canadian Open, tied 15th in Reno and tied 12th at the PGA Championship in Bellerive.
PK: How do you explain that?
SL: No idea. I think the change was just good.
PK: Whose idea was Alan?
SL: He sent me a text the night I finished with Dermot: ‘Look, if you want I can take unpaid leave for the next four weeks until you work out what you want to do.’
PK: What does he do?
SL: He’s a consultant with Deloitte. We went to Canada and shared a room, something I hadn’t done for years, and had a great time together. I played nicely, finished 15th in Reno and decided to bring dad out for the PGA. I thought: ‘When is he going to see Alan caddying for me in a Major? It might never happen again.’ We got this (suite) at the Ritz Carlton with two bedrooms and a big living room and had the best week ever.
PK: And it’s that connection that gets you moving again?
SL: Yeah, I was back playing with a smile on my face.
PK: When did Bo (his new caddie, Brian Martin) start?
SL: Bo started with me in Portugal and we had a decent chance there.
SL: Yeah, then I missed the cut at the Dunhill but played well until the end of the year and finished second at Valderrama and gave myself a chance. It’s all about giving yourself a few chances.
PK: What about the off-season? It seemed you definitely had a plan.
SL: I think I was just playing with a bit more confidence. I rented a house on the Palm in Dubai with Paul (Dunne) for a month and had Wendy and Iris with me. We were cooking in every night, having a nice time.
PK: You get on well with Paul?
SL: I get on very well with Paul.
PK: And he was playing pretty well in your practice games?
SL: I don’t think I beat him once. That’s why it’s a stupid game.
PK: Because he starts the season with two missed cuts and you’re the leading player on the Tour?
SL: Yeah, it’s just mad how it works. Honestly, I went out that first day in Abu Dhabi thinking: ‘God knows what I’ll shoot today, it might be 74, it might be 64, but I’ll still have to go out and shoot another score tomorrow.’ So I’m trying to live my golfing life one day at a time.
PK: And is that different?
SL: Yeah, definitely, and something I’ve chatted a lot to Neil about.
PK: You shot a course record 62 in the opening round.
PK: Is that your lowest as a pro?
SL: Tied, the other one was in Baltray.
PK: Had you ever gone wire-to-wire before?
PK: How does it unfold?
SL: That first night was obviously great. I went (to the range) and hit a few balls and remember saying in the interviews that it was a good day in my career and I was going to enjoy it. But it was just one day. Neil was there and we talked about it again that night.
PK: Wiping the slate clean and starting again?
SL: Yeah, and that helped, because I got off to a shaky start the next day but got it back and was still leading at the end of the round. And it’s nice to be leading. It’s nice to see your name up there on the scoreboard all the time when you’re walking around, but it’s the same conversation that night: ‘Today doesn’t matter. You have to go out tomorrow and shoot another score.’ And I went out in the third round and shot five under in windy conditions and just played great. It was the score of the day.
PK: And you’re leading by three.
PK: At what stage do the ghosts of Oakmont return?
SL: As soon as I finish the round – ye journalists can’t help yourselves.
SL: It’s true. I did the interviews for TV and went into the writers and it was thrown at me straight away: “When was the last time you were leading a tournament going into the final round, Shane?”
PK: (Laughs) Do you remember who the bastard was?
SL: John Huggan.
PK: Yeah, John’s good.
PK: So now you’ve got to deal with it.
SL: Yeah, and you’re on your own.
PK: You go out in the final round with Richard Sterne, a 37-year-old South African with six Tour wins. Do you know him?
SL: Yeah, but if I’d known how bad of a run he was on (Sterne hadn’t won in six years and had gone 16 months since his last top-10) I’d have probably been more relaxed: ‘This lad is in a worse place than I am!’ But we went out and he started like a train.
PK: He’s five under for the front nine. You’re one over?
SL: Yeah. I was level par through six and then made some bad mistakes on 8, 9, 10, and 11, and at that stage, being honest, it felt like Oakmont again. Things were happening so quickly.
PK: And you’re four shots back?
SL: Yeah. We walked to the 12th and I went for a piss in the bushes behind the tee and gave myself a talking to: ‘Jesus! Don’t do this again! Don’t hand it to him! Make him win it!’ And then he gave me a glimmer of hope. We had 140 yards to the flag but it was (playing) downwind so it was a perfect gap wedge for me – and I’d have thought a perfect gap wedge for him – but he hit a wedge 60 feet pass. I thought: ‘I know he’s four ahead but that’s a weird shot.’
PK: What was weird about it?
SL: There was water short of the green and he obviously wanted to take it out of play but he went over the top.
PK: Too cautious?
SL: Yeah, I understand why he did it, because four ahead with seven to play you’re thinking: ‘Let’s not fuck this up. Seven pars and you win.’
PK: And he makes his par?
SL: Yeah, holed a lovely six-footer. But I’ve hit a lovely shot to 18 feet and holed the putt down the hill (for birdie).
PK: So you’re now three back.
SL: I’m still in it. I bin another big one on the next and then he three-putts 14 and that’s when I know I’ve a real chance, because he had been holing-out lovely all day.
PK: What does that do to you?
SL: It’s some buzz. I’ve come from four behind to one behind and all the pressure is on him.
PK: From hunted to hunter?
PK: Keep going.
SL: We’ve a long wait on the 16th fairway. (Ian) Poulter is in the group ahead taking a drop and I look across and (Sterne) is sitting on his bag. I say to Bo: “As much as I’m uncomfortable to be standing here and waiting, it’s a whole lot worse for him.” And I haven’t always been able to think like that.
PK: To stand back from it?
SL: And use (the circumstances) to your advantage. I said to Bo: “If we finish 4, 4, 4 we’ll get a play-off.” Because the last three holes were playing difficult. He bogeyed 16 and I finished 4, 4, 4 and won by one. It was nice.
PK: How nice? How did it feel?
SL: Relief, just pure relief. It’s such a fickle sport. If Richard Sterne had played those last few holes a bit better, I’d have finished second and had the demons back. He plays them poorly, I play them well, and the demons are gone. I was pinching myself for days. My da always said that the best thing about winning in football was waking up the following morning. It’s true: You wake up and you’re like: ‘Phhhhh! This is the best thing ever.’
PK: How does it compare to the other wins?
SL: This is very special. I think I’ve enjoyed it and embraced it more than I’ve done in the past.
PK: Because you’ve come from a dark place?
SL: It wasn’t all a dark place, but there were plenty of dark moments. Professional sport is difficult. I count myself lucky to make a living doing what I love, but I don’t love it all the time. We were talking earlier about Irish people being the best in the world when you’re going well, but they can also be the worst when you’re not going well.
PK: Any examples of that?
SL: I suppose you read it more so than anything.
PK: You’re blaming us again?
SL: (Laughs) No, I was thinking of social media and stuff. I think social media is the hardest thing in the world right now. I loved Twitter but don’t use my account anymore – Brian (his manager, Brian Moran) does that for me. I can’t deal with the negativity. It’s just poison; people slagging you off and telling you how shite you are. And people licking your arse is something you don’t need as well.
PK: So what have you learned?
SL: I think you learn who your friends are, and how important your family are, and that you have to keep going and doing the right things.
PK: What about going forward? What’s the ambition?
SL: My ambition for the next 18 months is to make the Ryder Cup team. I’m 32 this year and if I’m going to play Ryder Cup it will have to be soon.
PK: You’ll have to qualify. Pádraig is not going to pick you.
SL: Yeah, I know.
PK: They’re not giving picks to rookies these days.
SL: Yeah, and he would be slower to pick one of his friends because he’d be setting himself up for a fall.
PK: What about the Majors?
SL: I’m not going to sit here and say I want to win Majors. I would love to win a Major, obviously, but I’m going to go out and try to enjoy my golf and just play the best that I can. I’ve started to write stuff down recently: ‘What do I want to achieve today?’ Then you look at it at night: ‘Did I do that?’ So it’s just trying to hit those goals.
PK: It’s obviously a goal to get back to the Masters?
SL: (Smiles) Yeah, and to have Iris with the (caddie’s) suit on, that’s the plan. I’ve five tournaments between now and Augusta and they’re all big events. It’s just great to be back in the big events.
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