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Tuesday, October 15, 2019
shane lowry

Tony spoke to former Reuters golf correspondent Tony Jimenez to discuss how Shane Lowry and Francesco Molinari must cope with a period of re-adjustment after hitting the heights:

“I noticed that Shane and Francesco missed the cut at the Italian Open last week and couldn’t help but compare their situations to mine 50 years ago.

They’ve both climbed the mountain recently and there’s always a period of re-adjustment after that. Molinari had an incredible season last year, winning The Open and starring at the Ryder Cup, while Lowry won The Open this year on a wave of emotion in front of a passionate home crowd in Ireland.

Inevitably, these guys will have a lot more off-the-course opportunities pushed in front of them, a lot more commitments that have the capacity to take their eye off the ball.

How you handle all that is crucial and, just as importantly, how their management teams, their families and close friends react to it all.

Jack Nicklaus was the master at that. He dealt with it perfectly, with a much better perspective than anyone else.

He would prepare for the four Majors in a unique way because he would never play the week before. Then, if he won, he would always take a week off to come back down to earth.

Jack figured out early in his career that he couldn’t be at his best for more than 18 weeks a year. The rest of the time he had his golf design business and his family to fall back on. That was how he spent his time recharging the batteries.

He knew all along that mind and body had to turn up together when he teed it up.

My own career was probably an example of how not to do it. I won The Open at Lytham in July 1969 and straight away my manager, Mark McCormack, told me I had to go to America.

I won The Open on the Saturday and the following Thursday I was teeing it up at the Westchester Classic, which had the biggest prize in golf in those days, and inevitably I missed the cut.

I played the next three weeks in the States too and missed the cut each time. There were no more beans in the tin for me. I was spent. I knew I should have gone off for a break to take time to contemplate the massive change The Open win meant to my career, to my life.

But the money back then wasn’t in any way comparable to the stakes they are playing for today. Apart from Jack, we all survived on rations back then and if you wanted to take advantage of what you had accomplished, you had to go where the money was.

If I wasn’t playing, I was off doing promotional work somewhere, playing exhibition matches, doing TV stuff or having to turn up at a dinner or a prize-giving. It was a crazy time and it can’t be crazy if you want to play top-level golf on a serious basis.

I never really got my mind round it all and re-adjusted until the Ryder Cup came round in September 1969. Rather like Molinari, I was unbeaten there, I won four and a half points and halved with Jack in that famous concession on the last day.

It took me two and a half months to get hungry again and the whole point of this game is wanting to do it, wanting to do well, wanting to achieve things.

I knew back then that I needed to take a step back from it all but I also remember saying to Mark that I wanted to be financially stable. I never got there, though, it always seemed I was treading water.

I should have moved to America after winning The Open. That was my biggest mistake but l listened to those who told me that, because I was European, I had to play in Europe, and by doing that I was being dragged in too many different directions.

It never occurred to me back then that I was jeopardising the longevity of my career. The Lee Trevino thing, of course, had another big impact when he chipped in five times to edge me out at the 1972 Open.

That was a huge shock to my system. I never really contended again in the Majors although I kept winning through the 1970s in Europe.

The difference these days is that the money is so good that one win alone, especially in the States, can set you up for life from a financial point of view.

The rewards are truly incredible now. I went to a reunion of US Open champions earlier this year and I had never been in a room containing so many massively wealthy individuals. People like Rory McIlroy, who is worth hundreds of millions of pounds.

It is hard to comprehend for a guy like me. I used to play exhibition matches for £40 and spectators used to throw coins on the green for charity if you made a birdie.”