British Open champ Shane Lowry will have to settle for Memorial Tournament

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DUBLIN, Ohio — In a different world — one with no COVID-19 — Shane Lowry would be teeing it up Thursday at Royal St. George’s as the defending British Open champion.

Instead, he’ll be grouped with Phil Mickelson and Justin Rose at 1:06 p.m. for the first round of the Memorial Tournament.

The British Open was canceled this year because of the pandemic. So, Lowry, who won at Royal Portrush last year, will hold onto the Claret Jug for another year and defend his title next July at Royal St. George’s.

“I wouldn’t say it’s bittersweet, but it is strange, like I should be going, should be in St. George’s probably sitting in the pressroom there as defending champion and wondering how I’m going to go out and tackle that golf course as opposed to being here in Ohio,’’ Lowry said Wednesday. “It’s just very strange times for us at the minute, isn’t it?’’

Lowry has never played in an Open Championship at Royal St. George’s, in the southeast of England.

“So that would have been different,’’ he said. “Look, we’re here, this is the biggest tournament in the world this week, the Memorial, and this is a huge tournament in its own right, so I’m very happy to be competing here. But obviously I’d love to be in St. George’s. I miss the crowds, you miss the kind of buzz, the adrenaline you get from that, and I miss all that.

“Obviously, I’d love to be in St. George’s this week defending,’’ Lowry went on. “I’d love if we were playing in front of 40,000 or 50,000 people this week in St. George’s. I’d love it, like everybody in the world, if things were back to normal. But they’re not, and we kind of have to get on with that.

“I miss being announced on the first tee as defending champion, but I’m sure I’ll get that next year. So, everything that I miss or that I won’t get to do this week, I’m sure I’ll get to do next year.’’

Lowry said he’s found himself “looking at the trophy and looking back on clips and videos and stuff like that.’’

The Golf Channel this week has been airing past British Open broadcasts.

“I’m not sure if other guys do that or if it’s the right thing to do or the wrong thing to do,’’ he said. “But it’s a moment in my life that I’m very grateful for, and it’s a moment that I’ll always look back on with very fond memories. Even sitting in the house [Tuesday] evening, just finished dinner, and I was flicking through the channels and next thing the Golf Channel popped up and they were showing the final round.

“I watched a little bit of it. I didn’t stay up late enough to watch it all, but I did watch a little bit of it, and yeah, it’s just cool looking back on it. I’ve never really watched it without like fast-forwarding bits and skipping the bad shots, skipping the missed putts. But I’ve watched it a few times. I think my dad probably watches it every day.’’

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