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Lowry longs for his open defense as McIlroy tries to step it up during the Memorial Tournament

Shane Lowry longs for his open defense as world number 1 Rory McIlroy tries to stage it at the Memorial Tournament alongside Brooks Koepka and Tiger Woods

  • Strongest field assembled for a mainstream PGA Tour event in Dublin, Ohio
  • Tiger Woods, Brooks Koepka and Rory McIlroy play together in the first round
  • Shane Lowry should have returned the Claret Jug to Royal St George’s

The strongest field collected for a mainstream PGA Tour event has been gathered during the Memorial Tournament in Dublin, Ohio – but you can hardly blame the man more used to Dublin, Ireland for the desire for the biggest tournament all time.

Shane Lowry thought he wouldn’t find out that he wasn’t returning the Claret Jug this week when he turned on his hotel television, flipped through channels – and landed on a show of last year’s unforgettable last round of the Open at Royal Portrush .

“I wouldn’t say it’s bittersweet here, but it’s weird,” said Offaly’s husband.

Shane Lowry should have turned in the Claret Jug this week at Royal St George's

Shane Lowry should have turned in the Claret Jug this week at Royal St George’s

“I should do this press interview at Royal St George’s and follow that course instead of being here. Like everyone else, I wish everything was back to normal and I defended my title in front of 50,000 people. But I have never been one to think about things. We should be thankful that we play golf at all, and especially an event the size of this. ‘

When asked what he missed most because he was not in Kent this week, the Irishman replied: ‘Every time you play in the Open it’s special. I miss the buzz, the buzz and the adrenaline you get from that, and I miss the announcement on the first tee as the defending champion.

“I wasn’t from a golf family, but once you start the game where I grew up, you realize how big it is, and when Padraig Harrington won it in 2007 and 2008, I saw the size. But like everything I miss, I am sure I will experience it next year. ‘

Tiger Woods, Brooks Koepka and Rory McIlroy (photo) play together in the first round

Tiger Woods, Brooks Koepka and Rory McIlroy (photo) play together in the first round

Tiger Woods, Brooks Koepka and Rory McIlroy (photo) play together in the first round

Lowry will be part of a remarkable first round group on Thursday, alongside Phil Mickelson and Justin Rose, a former winner of this prestigious event hosted every year by Jack Nicklaus.

They start 11 minutes before the most eye-catching group of them all: Tiger Woods – his first start since February in a tournament he has won five times – Brooks Koepka and Rory McIlroy, who want to shake off his patchy form since the reboot.

“The field is stronger in terms of world rankings than the last eight editions of the Masters, so it’s time to step it up,” said McIlroy.

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