Wed. Feb 1st, 2023

LONDON (AFP) – British Open champion Shane Lowry says he cannot wait to defend his title in front of fans at Royal St George’s after coronavirus restrictions were eased in England.

The pandemic forced the postponement of the 2020 British Open, meaning Lowry will be playing to retain the Claret Jug for the first time when this year’s tournament starts in July.

Several pilot events have been staged in the UK to test the return of fans to sport, with the FA Cup final and Premier League matches allowed reduced capacities recently.

After many tournaments were played without fans once golf resumed following lockdown, Lowry is looking forward to the backing of up to 30,000 spectators at the British Open.

“I was disappointed at the start but I am going to get the upside of defending in front of a few people this year,” Lowry said on Tuesday.

“Selfishly, the way everything happened last year I wasn’t able to go to the Irish Open or play in front of crowds as the Open champion.

“But I didn’t pack the trophy away in July and say ‘That’s my year over’. Just to have it for that length of time and be able to share it with friends and family was incredible.”

Lowry revealed the famous British Open trophy had been a little damaged during the Irishman’s extra long spell in possession of it.

“It has been sent back to be straightened once, yes. I noticed as it was going through the airport scanner it had a little dent on it but I talked to Zach Johnson (the 2015 champion) and he said he also bent it,” Lowry said.

“I can assure you it is in good shape and will come back nice and shiny. It will be a sad time giving it back but hopefully I get it back in the future.

“And I will prefer going back to defend my title with crowds as opposed to playing last year with no crowds.”

Lowry, 34, registered his first top-10 major finish in five outings since winning the British Open at Royal Portrush with a joint-fourth place in the US PGA Championship at Kiawah Island on Sunday.

By rahul