MARANA, Ariz. — Shane Lowry had not thought much about the Irish Open until he saw the picture posted this week on Twitter.
The celebration was an Irish version of when Francis Ouimet won the 1913 U.S. Open as an amateur at Brookline. Lowry was a 22-year-old amateur at County Louth in 2009 when he holed a 2-foot putt in a playoff to beat Robert Rock. He dropped the putter and raised his arms in one motion, bounced on his feet and thrust his arms forward. He rushed into the arms of his caddie as hundreds of fans — parents, cousins, everyone — swarmed him on the green.
In the middle of that wild scene was Rory McIlroy, brown curls spilling out from under his golf cap, shaking a bottle of champagne to douse Lowry.
“It was unbelievable,” McIlroy recalled Tuesday. “Amateur comes in, virtually unheard of, and plays great in the conditions, and the celebration at the end when he beat Robert Rock in the playoff was pretty special.”
Their past includes more than dreary afternoon in the rain at Baltray. They practically grew up together in Irish amateur golf, both the best in their respective age groups, and they were foursomes partners on the Irish team that won the European Team Championships in 2007.
The future is today at Dove Mountain.
McIlroy, already a two-time major champion at 23, is the No. 1 player in the world and the top seed in the Match Play Championship. Thanks to a peculiar series of events over the last two weeks, his opponent in the first round will be Lowry.
“Who would have thought a few years ago, playing in the European Team Championships at Western Gailes, that we’d be playing in the first round of the Match Play here in a few years’ time,” McIlroy said. “It’s pretty cool to think where we’ve come from.”