Shane Lowry has already made a big name for himself this year by knocking out Rory McIlroy in the first round of the WGC-Accenture Match Play in the United States, but the Irishman admits he hopes to steal the headlines again when he defends the €2 million Portugal Masters in October.
The 25 year old captured his first European Tour victory as a professional at Oceânico Victoria Golf Course, in Vilamoura, finishing one shot clear of Englishman Ross Fisher following a thrilling final round battle.
In doing so, Lowry became only the second player after Spaniard Pablo Martin to win as both an amateur and a professional on The European Tour, having claimed his maiden title in memorable fashion in the 2009 Irish Open before joining the paid ranks.
Lowry’s victory in Portugal, which was followed by a fifth place finish in the lucrative BMW Masters in China, helped him to 29th place on The 2013 Race to Dubai, representing steady progress after ending the 2010 season in 62nd position and the 2011 campaign in 41st place.
He will return to Oceânico Victoria Golf Course, from October 10-13, hoping to become the first player to successfully defend the Portugal Masters title in the tournament’s seven year history. And he is sure to be cheered on by the huge continent of Irish tourists who traditionally descend on the Algarve at that time of year to swell the already large Irish ex-pat community around Vilamoura.
Lowry is the touring professional at Carton House, and while he will enjoy home comforts when the Co. Kildare venue hosts this year’s Irish Open, he is also looking forward to returning to Oceânico Victoria Golf Course, which is one of his favourite destinations on The European Tour and one at which he feels equally at home.
“The hotel is lovely and right beside the golf course and we are only five or ten minutes from the marina in Vilamoura, and there are nice bars and restaurants there,” he said. “It is probably one of the most enjoyable tournaments on Tour.
“There are a lot of Irish people around there. Playing that back nine on the Sunday, it felt like was a lot of support behind me. I’m sure there might even be a bit more support there this year. When you go back and defend you’ve always got some fond memories, so I’m really looking forward to going back.”
He added: “I won the Irish Open as an amateur and it was another three and a half years before I won again. So it was a long time and my win in Portugal actually felt better than winning the Irish Open.”
Lowry overturned Austrian Bernd Wiesberger’s four stroke overnight lead to win the title last October and, unlike his victory in Ireland which earned him nothing due to his amateur status, he picked up a cheque for £375,000. An eagle two on the 11th hole of the final round was the key shot from Lowry, who looked set for a play-off until Fisher – his stablemate at Horizon Sports Management – three-putted the last for a bogey.
That meant Lowry’s closing round of 66 for a 14 under par total of 270 was enough for victory, as he succeeded Englishman Tom Lewis as champion and joining a roll of honour that also includes Steve Webster (2007), Alvaro Quiros (2008), Lee Westwood (2009) and Richard Green (2010).
He said: “The 11th hole was the key shot, holing a seven iron from 138 yards, and that gave me the momentum to go on and win. That was the moment I felt I could win the tournament and I kicked on from there.
“I was quite nervous playing the last few holes, but that gave me the belief. I had nearly holed a six iron on the tenth as well, so I felt like I was playing well, and I was thrilled to get the win.”
The Portugal Masters has become a highly popular destination for The European Tour’s professionals and autumn sun-seekers for the past six years. Past champions have been Steve Webster, Alvaro Quiros, Lee Westwood, Richard Green, Tom Lewis and Lowry.
Advance tickets are available now for the Portugal Masters, with substantial savings on the gate prices. Admission to the Pro-Am on October 10 is €10 in advance (€15 on the gate), with Any One Day Adult passes costing €20 (€25 on the gate) and concessions €15 in advance or €20 on the gate. Adult Season tickets are priced at €50 (Wednesday to Sunday) compared to €60 on the gate. To buy tickets, click here