Why Shane Lowry is primed to be Europe's secret Ryder Cup weapon

“If you’re caught on a golf course during a storm and you’re afraid of lightning, hold up a one-iron,” Lee Trevino once said. “Not even God can hit a one-iron.”

© AP Shane Lowry’s mastery of the wind is primed to become Europe’s secret Ryder Cup weapon – AP

While lightning is not expected this Ryder Cup weekend, Wisconsin’s weather has certainly turned. Residents on the shores of Lake Michigan have been warned to brace for 20-foot waves and two-foot storm surges, with a danger of widespread flooding over the next few days.

Having started the week at a balmy 26C, the thermometer has dropped to 17C, not including the brutal windchill. If Team Europe’s “cheesehead” hats were primarily intended as a charm offensive, they also served as useful ear-warmers.

Not that Padraig Harrington will be complaining. The Americans are used to playing in the eternal summer of Florida. Whereas this course feels like it might be in Arthur Ransome country, with the sails flapping on Windermere. These straits are not so much whistling as howling. And here could lie Europe’s greatest chance of staging an upset.

Team USA’s strategy is simple: line their bombers up on the tee and press the red button. Bryson DeChambeau caused a stir on Tuesday by cutting the corner of the par-five fifth, leaving himself only 120 yards of a 603-yard hole still to play.

But will this approach work in a semi-gale? DeChambeau’s ball-flight is so high that he could end up anywhere: either in the ornamental pond which defines that fifth hole; or Lake Michigan itself, which lies on the opposite side of the same fairway.

Expect both teams to wrap up warm, and even to employ mittens for the 7am starts. “It feels very much like a summer’s day in Ireland when you’re out there,” joked Harrington’s compatriot Shane Lowry. Indeed, Lowry is feeling so bullish that he couldn’t help grinning on Wednesday when asked about the weather.

“I’m pretty happy with the golf course and that cold wind,” said Lowry, who grew up battling similar challenges in County Offaly, some 70 miles west of Dublin. “It’s quite difficult to play in these conditions because you need to get your head around hitting a six-iron 150 yards as opposed to over 200 yards. It’s hard to practise around here. You just kind of need to know how to do it, and I feel like I do.”

If wind-golf is a specialist skill, then Lowry has the perfect pedigree. He won a blustery Irish Open while still an amateur, before claiming the Open Championship at a windswept Portrush two years ago. Not only can he cut through the breeze with a low, skidding, spin-free trajectory, but he is also one of the world’s best chippers. Even if he misses the green, he still scrambles as well as a free-range egg.

© Provided by The Telegraph Europe are the underdogs against an American team with eight players in the world’s top 10 – REUTERS

“Being brought up playing those amateur links-type courses in Ireland, Shane learned to play all the shots and vary his ball flight,” said Pete Cowen, the celebrated swing coach who works with Rory McIlroy, Brooks Koepka, Ian Poulter and Matt Fitzpatrick. “Whereas the Americans, playing on the PGA Tour all the time, rarely need to change their ball flight at all. If they see bad weather coming then it usually means that they come off the course because there’s a risk of lightning.”

According to Cowen, there are several Europeans who would relish rough conditions and the consequent premium on pars rather than birdies. He described Lee Westwood as “the best wind driver in the team”, before adding that Fitzpatrick grew up at the Hallamshire Golf Club in Sheffield “where it is windy 364 days of the year”.

According to Harrington, “the course is designed to play like a links”. And for all the bookies’ attachment to the home team, the Americans have hardly dominated the Open Championship – usually played on the British seaboard – since Tiger Woods’s third and final claret jug in 2006. 

Over the ensuing 15 years, the tournament has thrown up two South African winners, five Americans and six European Ryder Cup stalwarts. Harrington himself – a Dublin boy – is the only man to do it twice.

“The direction of the wind is supposed to switch at the weekend,” Cowen concluded. “You’ll feel it on the final few holes, where so many matches are decided. We’re expecting a head wind on 15, 16 and 17 and then it will come off the left on 18. This will all add to the drama of what is a great matchplay course. And yes, if the weather comes on to blow, that should give Europe an advantage.”

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