Open champion Shane Lowry is targeting a Ryder Cup debut after finding himself part of a group of players he used to curse.
Roared on by a sell-out crowd as Royal Portrush made a memorable success of staging the Open for the first time in 68 years, Lowry cruised to a six-shot win to become the fifth Irish player to lift the Claret Jug after Fred Daly, Padraig Harrington, Darren Clarke and Rory McIlroy.
The victory lifted Lowry to 17th in the world rankings, equalling his career best, and to 18th in the FedEx Cup standings, boosting his chances of claiming a USD 10million bonus by winning the season-long event at the Tour Championship at the end of August.
Lowry, 32, will then turn his attention to the start of Ryder Cup qualifying as he tries to seal a place on the European team which will attempt to retain the trophy at Whistling Straits next year under Harrington’s captaincy.
“Obviously in the short term I’m going to enjoy this, there’s no doubt about that,” Lowry said. “But in the long term you obviously want to back up your success.
“My big goal remains the same and that is to be on the plane going to Whistling Straits next year. That’s my plan for the next 12 months. Hopefully that involves a couple of wins along the way.
“This is huge for me. Obviously a major championship and my first season winning twice.
“I have a lot of play for now. I’m well up in the FedEx Cup now, which is nice. I’ve got a busy few months ahead of me and I’m very excited.
“But I’ve learned my trade on the European Tour, I’m a European Tour member and love playing the European Tour. I’ll be back in September to start my quest of making the Ryder Cup team next year and that’s my focus the next 12 months.”
The fact that his golfing hero turned good friend Harrington is captain means Lowry is more determined than ever to be part of the biennial contest against the United States, although he admits Harrington’s glittering career was not always a positive.
Harrington’s back-to-back Open victories and 2008 US PGA Championship victory kickstarted an incredible period of major success for Irish players, with Graeme McDowell winning the 2010 US Open, McIlroy succeeding him as champion and Clarke claiming the 2011 Open.
Lowry, who turned professional after winning the 2009 Irish Open as a 22-year-old amateur, said: “There’s a lot of people that helped me along the way.
“Gary Murphy, Damien McGrane and Peter Lawrie made sure that I flew with them, stayed in the same hotels, went to dinner with them, played practice rounds with them. They were great for me.
“And obviously Paddy and G-Mac (McDowell), they’re two really good friends of mine now. To be able to hang around with someone like Padraig Harrington who paved the way for the success of Irish golfers…. I’m just so happy I can add my name to the list of major champions.
“I used to curse them an awful lot in the past because that’s all anybody wanted to know about in Ireland because they were winning so many majors. When are you going to win one? Winning regular events wasn’t good enough for anyone.
“People might say there’s not enough Irish golfers on tour but look at the standard of Irish golfers we have. Rory McIlroy is one of the best players in the world, if not the best on his day.
“G-Mac I think is getting his stroke back and the careers that Paddy and Darren and those guys have had is just incredible.”