Shane Lowry learns from US Open collapse to win Abu Dhabi HSBC Championship presented by EGA title
The Irishman triumphs by one shot from Richard Sterne at Abu Dhabi Golf Club
After a week that started with vague memories of his greatest ever triumph, Shane Lowry admitted he had to battle the ghosts of his deepest golfing despair before tasting victory for the first time in three and a half years.
The Irishman won the Abu Dhabi HSBC Championship presented by EGA after a captivating final-round duel with Richard Sterne around the National Course.
The joyful scenes at the end as his two-year-old daughter Iris innocently toddled on to the 18th green to celebrate with her father contrasted markedly with the previous four hours, most of which had been taught with agonising tension.
Lowry started the final round with a three-shot lead over his playing partner. Sterne devoured that lead with a sparkling opening nine that consisted of just 31 strokes.
If Lowry had appeared to be succumbing to fraying nerves when he snap-hooked his drive at the ninth into the water left of the fairway, there was good reason.
The 31-year-old had been here before. The last time he held a 54-hole lead was at the 2016 US Open, when he capitulated with a final-round 76, and could only watch as Dustin Johnson claimed the title.
Lowry acknowledged that memories of that day at Oakmont had crept into his mind in Abu Dhabi. But, as Sterne assumed a four-shot lead by the 11th, it was the desire to exorcise those demons that fuelled his last, glorious push.
“I slept OK last night, but I was a little bit nervy this morning,” Lowry said. “Breakfast and lunch didn’t go down as well as it has been over the past few days.
“The one thing I got from Oakmont was, I laid down and I didn’t show any fight or bottle there. I did that today.
"I felt, after the 11th hole, I was getting myself in the same situation I was getting myself in in Oakmont.
“I genuinely thought that. But I had a quick word with myself and told myself to kick on and see what I could do for the next six or seven holes.”
Lowry sense that the pressure had now been heaped onto his South African rival. In response, Lowry made two birdies, while Sterne bogeyed twice, meaning they went to the 18th tee all square, with the tournament on the line.
They hit almost identical drives. Then Sterne could only find the cart path behind the galleries right of the green, while Lowry hit the perfect second shot.
“It was weird,” Lowry said. “I started three ahead, and was level par through six and tied for the lead, so there weren’t any alarm bells ringing for me.
“Around the turn I had four fives in a row, which was not very good, but the golf course was playing quite difficult. I kept on telling myself to hang in there.
“It is easy to lie down and would have been easy for me to, but I showed a bit of character and a bit of bottle there, I thought.”
Lowry said it was a “huge moment in my career” and hopes it will fuel a march back up the world rankings “where I believe I belong”.
His wire-to-wire win all started with a course-record equalling 62 on Wednesday. That included a par-save from wasteland on the fifth hole that brought to mind his astonishing escape at the 72nd hole of the 2015 WGC Bridgestone Invitational – which had been his most recent win.
While Lowry was delighted with the way he started in Abu Dhabi, he said it made for an exhausting week.
“It sets you up well, because you are leading by three after one round,” Lowry said.
“One thing it does do is put you in contention from the word go – and it makes it a very long week.
“It is a long week being in contention for four days. I’m not complaining. I’m very happy. The confidence I gained from a round like that, shooting 10-under on a course like that, showed me my game is where I want it to be.
“I knew I had been playing alright in the past two weeks during my pre-season, but I really didn’t envisage this.”
Updated: January 19, 2019 07:52 PM