Shane Lowry on his Tuesday duels with Rory McIlroy at The Bear's Club
"We've grown closer than we ever have been."
As much as he cut his teeth on the European [or DP World] Tour, Shane Lowry makes no bones that the PGA Tour in America was always his main goal as a golfing professional.
The 2019 Open champion has now reached a level where he can bounce between the two tours and work events into a schedule that tries to maximise his chances at the majors and end-of-season biggies.
Since moving to Florida, more than five years ago, Lowry has climbed steadily up the world rankings and is often in the mix at majors. Along with his Claret Jug win at Royal Portrush, three years ago, he finished tied 4th at last year's US PGA and tied 3rd in this year's Masters. When he wins, too, it is often a big event, such as when he pipped Rory McIlroy to the BMW PGA Championship at Wentworth, last month.
Following that clutch victory, Lowry joked 'you've won enough' when a magnanimous McIlroy came to congratulate him. He may have been referring to McIlroy's four tiurnament wins in the past 18 months, or their side-game at the home golf club of the legendary Jack Nicklaus.
McIlroy is two years younger than Lowry, but the Offaly native told No Laying Up 'he was always a step ahead of me, when it came to golf' and played above the age grades.
In 2007, the pair won the European Team Championships as part of a five-man group of Irish amateurs. That was the biggest deal to the younger golfers, back then, but McIlroy would soon turn professional and Lowry would follow suit in 2009, a week after he won The Irish Open.
"I got on tour but I was playing mainly in Europe and he was in America, so I wouldn't have seen him that much," he said. "But I think, over the last few years, we've grown closer than we ever have been.
"I live down here [in Florida] and live 10 minutes from him. Our wives are very good friends and we have kids of a similar age. It's all worked out where we do hang out a bit and play practice rounds together.
"I play quite a bit with at The Bear's Club, and I always say this - if you want to become a better golfer, you have to play with better players. And it has definitely helped me, over the years, playing golf with him, because if you go to The Bear's Club with him on a Tuesday afternoon and if you don't shoot 8-under, you're losing the money!
"Definitely over the last four to five years, we've grown closer than we have ever been. And it's great for me to have one of the best players in the world, and certainly one of the greatest over the last 10 years, as one of my good friends and someone I can talk to."
LIV Golf 'probably pissing off' general Joe Soap - Shane Lowry
In recent months, Shane Lowry has spoken out more and more on the threat posed to the PGA and DP World Tours by the breakaway competition, LIV Golf.
The Saudi-funded competition, which aims to become more of a league in 2023, has lured away big names like Dustin Johnson, Cameron Smith, Bryson DeChambeau and Patrick Reed, but Lowry insists he will never join them.
"This is causing a division in the game," he said of LIV Golf's plans. "It's going to piss people off. People are going to stop watching it.
"I think the amounts of money that are being thrown around are absolutely disgusting, at the minute. Even, I feel like all people talk about now is money. They don't talk about what you win. The PGA Tour, for 10 years, has tried to get money out of it - we play for points now in the FedEx Cup.
"Even when you watched the [PGA] Tour Championship, though, all the commentators talked about was how much money the players were going to win. I was thinking, 'Would you just talk about the trophy or the title they're going to win?' Talk about Rory going down the stretch and how he could surpass Tiger if he wins. Stuff like that. It's just disgusting, the amounts of money we're talking about, to be honest."
When the host observed how the money-talk was a 'turn off' for many fans, Lowry agreed whole-heartedly.
"The general Joe Soap - a guy that works his nuts off to make 50 grand a year and has to struggle, even, to make the membership at his local golf club, and loves the game so much - this is probably pissing him off, more than anyone. And I think it's the wrong thing to do."
You can listen to that full interview with Shane Lowry here.