Shane Lowry on last year’s deluge on final hole at Honda Classic: ‘It isn’t a God-given right to win’

PALM BEACH GARDENS, Fla. — On second thought, Shane Lowry credits Sepp Straka more than he blames the unexpected deluge for walking off the soggy Champion Course a year ago as the runner-up.

Lowry’s spirits were dampened, literally, after playing the final hole of the Honda Classic in a driving rain. He entered tied for the lead and exited in second place, one shot behind Straka, who had the fortune of hitting his tee shot on the par-5 18th hole before the torrential rain came.

The difference in tee shots: 90 yards.

Lowry, the Irishman who has moved to Jupiter (don’t they all), was distraught at the time.

But Wednesday, the day before the start of another Honda, Lowry made it clear. Straka earned that win.

“You have a two-shot lead with five to play around this course and you play them at level par, you generally get the job done,” Lowry said Wednesday. “Sepp played the last five holes in 3-under, which was pretty good around here. He went and won the tournament.”

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The figurative black cloud that has hung over the Honda in recent years was real in 2022. And it opened up at the worst possible time.

Honda was headed toward a classic finish and a likely playoff with Lowry and Straka tied as the final group got to 18. But then everything changed.

“That was the only rain cell in South Florida that Sunday afternoon,” Steve Weagle, chief meteorologist at WPTV Channel 5, recalls. “And it really only impacted Palm Beach Gardens.”

Straka knows he was fortunate to hit his tee shot, a 330-yard laser down the middle, before the rain. By the time Lowry stepped onto the tee box, fans were sprinting off the course for cover, and Lowry was just hoping to hang onto his club.

“It was crazy,” Straka said Tuesday. “I never thought it would rain. The whole week has just been perfect, and standing on the tee on 18, I look back and there’s just this huge dark cloud right there sitting over us. I was like, oh, boy, we’ve got to get going to get this done. Obviously, it’s a par-5, so it’s a little slower, you’re waiting. Thankfully got to hit the tee shot without the rain.

“But then walking up to the second shot, it just started flooding. It was crazy.”

Straka figured he was a 7-iron away. But that was in a drizzle. By the time he got there, he switched to a 6-iron. “Pulled it off,” he said.

“There was a lot of stuff up in the air out of my control with the weather,” he said.

An easy two-putt led to a soaking-wet Straka hoisting the trophy.

“Yes, if it didn’t rain, the probability was I might have made birdie and got into a playoff, but it wasn’t a God-given right to win,” Lowry said. “Yes, it was a bad break, but they’re the breaks you get in golf.”

Lowry figured the golf gods owed him after Honda, and he collected for the most part. He ranked 50th in the world entering Honda, 35th coming out and is No. 20 this week. He finished in the top 20 in four of his next five events following Honda, including a tie for third at the Masters, his best finish in a major since winning the 2019 Open Championship.

After missing the cut in Phoenix two weeks ago, Lowry rebounded with a T14 at the Genesis Invitational.

For Straka, his trip around the Champion Course Tuesday — his first time back — sparked fond memories.

But one of the biggest takeaways from his win at Honda is his popularity soaring in his native land of Austria. Straka is the first, and only, Austrian to win on the PGA Tour, although when asked if he was recognized in the streets when he returned home he said, “No, no. I keep a pretty low profile for the most part.”

And after last year, he’s prepared for anything on the Champ.

So what can we expect after a 2022 tournament in which the leaders had 71 holes of Chamber of Commerce weather and one with torrential rain?

We asked the expert.

“Record highs possible each day through the weekend,” Weagle warned. “And gusty winds making the Bear Trap a little extra tricky.”

The figurative black cloud that has hung over the Honda in recent years was real in 2022. And it opened up at the worst possible time.

Honda was headed toward a classic finish and a likely playoff with Lowry and Straka tied as the final group got to 18. But then every thing changed.

“That was the only rain cell in South Florida that Sunday afternoon,” Steve Weagle, chief meteorologist at WPTV Channel 5, recalls. “And it really only impacted Palm Beach Gardens.”

Straka knows he was fortunate to hit his tee shot, a 330-yard laser down the middle, before the rain. By the time Lowry stepped onto the tee box, fans were sprinting off the course for cover, and Lowry was just hoping to hand onto his club.

“It was crazy,” Straka said Tuesday. “I never thought it would rain. The whole week has just been perfect, and standing on the tee on 18, I look back and there’s just this huge dark cloud right there sitting over us. I was like, oh, boy, we’ve got to get going to get this done. Obviously it’s a par-5, so it’s a little slower, you’re waiting. Thankfully got to hit the tee shot without the rain.

“But then walking up to the second shot, it just started flooding. It was crazy.”

Straka figured he was a 7-iron away. But that was in a drizzle. By the time he got there he switched to a 6-iron. “Pulled it off,” he said.

“There was a lot of stuff up in the air out of my control with the weather,” he said.

An easy two putt led to a soaking-wet Straka hoisting the trophy.

“Yes, if it didn’t rain, the probability was I might have made birdie and got into a playoff, but it wasn’t a God-given right to win,” Lowry said. “Yes, it was a bad break, but they’re the breaks you get in golf.”

Lowry figured the golf gods owed him after Honda, and he collected for the most part. He ranked 50th in the world entering Honda, 35th coming out and in No. 20 this week. He finished in the top 20 in four of his next five events following Honda, including a tie for third in the Masters, his best finish in a major since winning the 2019 Open Championship.

After missing the cut in Phoenix two weeks ago, Lowry rebounded with a T14 at the Genesis Invitational.

For Straka, his trip around the Champion Course Tuesday – his first time back – sparked fond memories.

But one of the biggest takeaways from his win at Honda is his popularity soaring in his native land of Austria. Straka is the first, and only, Austrian to win on the PGA Tour, although when asked if he was recognized in the streets when he returned home he said, “No, No. I keep a pretty low profile for the most part.”.

And after last year, he’s prepared for anything on the Champ.

So what can we expect after a 2022 tournament in which the leaders had 71 holes of Chamber of Commerce weather and one with torrential rain?

We asked the expert.

“Record highs possible each day through the weekend,” Weagle warned. “And gusty winds making the Bear Trap a little extra tricky.”

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