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Open Champion Shane Lowry is among the group of Irish golfers playing in front of spectators at the Dubai Duty Free Irish Open. He is being joined by four-time Major winner Rory McIlroy, Ryder Cup Captain Pádraig Harrington and former U.S Open Champion Graeme McDowell, among others.
“It’s nice being back home,” the County Offaly Open champion said. “No matter where you go in the world it’s always nice to be home. Got home last week and got to see some family and friends at the weekend.
“Obviously coming here to play the Irish Open is exciting. It’s a tournament that obviously means a lot to me. And not that I owe a lot to it, but it kick-started my whole career with that invite I got here and winning it. It is nice to be here and it’s nice to have some good weather down here in Kilkenny, and, hopefully that stays for the rest of the week and we can all have a good week.”
Lowry’s career took off unexpectedly in 2009 when he won the Irish Open at County Louth Golf Club as an amateur.
He claimed his maiden Major title two years ago in front of his jubilant home fans in The Open Championship at Royal Portrush. The 34-year-old is happy to be back playing in front of Irish fans after this week’s event was chosen by the Irish government as one of the first pilot initiatives for extended capacity at outdoor sporting events.
Ryder Cup Captain Harrington
This week’s event also marks a special occasion for Harrington, who will play in front of the Irish crowds for the last time before he leads Team Europe as Captain at The Ryder Cup in September, and he is joined in the field by his recently-announced Vice Captains McDowell and Martin Kaymer.
Commenting on the current state of his game the Dubliner offered:
“I see some nice form. I’m always working away at things and trying to get my game in shape. At the moment I’m working more on my mental game. That’s a good sign. That’s normally when you get the better results. Somewhat focused on The Open in two weeks’ time, but that kind of helps because this week, it’s all about getting things right. You can’t just turn up and it’s not like a light switch where you just turn it on and off. It takes a bit of time.
“But I saw some good green shots last week, and it’s following on this week so far and hopefully I’ll keep doing it and play my game, do my stuff and hopefully Sunday with a few holes to go, I have a chance and enjoy those feelings of being stressed out under pressure for the last couple of holes.
“It’s great to be back here”
Graeme McDowell spoke of his delight at being back on an Irish golf course:
“Listen, any time you’re not playing an Irish Open, something’s going on, and obviously it’s been a crazy 15 months for everyone. It’s great to be back here at Mount Juliet. Dubai Duty Free continue to support us, and having people watching us will be great. Golf course is in fantastic condition.”
The Ulsterman expressed his delight with the layout of the course, stating:
“I think it’s a course that sets up pretty well for me, as well. You have to hit the fairways and keep the ball in play off the tee. You have a lot of short irons in your hand and perfect greens. It’s going to be a low-scoring affair and definitely got to come out of the gates hot tomorrow hopefully. I’m excited to be back, and looking forward to a good week.”
The first round of the Dubai Duty Free Irish Open on Thursday will be live on RTÉ Sport.
The tee-off times for round one can be accessed here.