Open champion Lowry ready for another big year


Abu Dhabi (AFP)

Shane Lowry enjoyed an exceptional season last year which was kickstarted by his early win at the Abu Dhabi Championship in January and the popular Irishman is hoping for more of the same in 2020.

The defending champion went on to win his first major championship, the British Open at Royal Portrush in July, and climbed from 75th in the official world golf ranking to his current position of 19th.

The 32-year-old has already shown he means business this year –- there were pictures on social media of blisters on his hands as he put in 13-hour stints in the range and gym in the new year -- and he finished second in the Hong Kong Open last week.

"It was obviously my best year-to-date. I couldn't really envisage what happened given my form coming into Abu Dhabi. It is a really, really difficult tournament to win, and it obviously kick-started an unbelievable season," said Lowry.

"There's no doubt that it had a positive impact on my life and my career, and mentally my attitude going forward. It's hard to probably put your finger on how much of an influence it had on my season, but obviously it did.

"Anybody who plays this game knows that a lot of form is built on confidence, and that's what I gained from here last year."

Lowry said his main goal for the year would be to get into the Olympics and the European Ryder Cup team, and he planned to pick and choose events to give himself the best chance.

"I don't write my goals down. I have it in my head what I want to achieve this year, and the main thing for me is to make that Ryder Cup team, and I've kind of set my schedule and everything out to do that.

"My schedule is pretty much similar to what I played last year. I think I need to really look at and pick courses that suit me and that I've done well on in the past and make sure I go back there.

"I am playing a lot of golf, and I don't have that many breaks, but you know, that's just the way this season is. I'm not adding anything. Obviously, when I play, I'm going to have to play well."

Lowry has been paired with world number one Brooks Koepka and the two-time Abu Dhabi champion and world No. 10 Tommy Fleetwood for the first two rounds. They tee off at 7:40am on Thursday (0340 GMT).

Meanwhile, Spain's world number 41 and 2017 Masters champion Sergio Garcia revealed he had severed his two-year-old relationship with club manufacturers Callaway.

"Unfortunately, our relationship with Callaway didn't go any farther. So, at the moment, I'm a free agent. I'm playing whatever I feel that's best for me," said Garcia.

"There are no hard feelings for both sides and these things happen. At the end of the day, what I want to do is go out there and enjoy what I do, try to do it to the best of my ability, and they are trying to get the best equipment they can get.

"Unfortunately, just it wasn't the fit that we thought it would be for me.”