Shane Lowry admitted the lack of fans at the Irish Open could help him win the event for the second time in his career.

The world number 30 was set to play at Mount Juliet in May in his first event on home soil since clinching the 148th Open Championship in July 2019 at Royal Portrush by six shots.

However, due to the coronavirus pandemic, the event was postponed and rescheduled for this week – which should have been the 2020 Ryder Cup at Whistling Straits – with Galgorm Castle hosting its maiden European Tour event.

The 33-year-old won this event as an amateur in 2009 and he believes the expectations from spectators and himself have prevented him from adding another Irish Open to his name.

Lowry, who is the leading player in the field, said at a press conference: “I was extremely excited to go up to Mount Juliet this year to play it as the Open champion and I was selfishly looking forward to playing the Irish Open in front of my home fans as a major champion, but that obviously didn’t happen with everything that went down.

“You don’t really make plans too far down the road with the way things are in the world at the moment, so when this venue and the date came up, I wanted to come and play because I feel like I owe it to the Irish Open, owe it to them and the Tour and just to support the event and to come here and give it my best shot to win it again.

“That’s the reason I’m here this week, I don’t think there will ever be a time when I won’t play in the Irish Open and that’s what I’ve shown this week and that’s how I feel about the event.

“I don’t think it is possible for me to have more expectations than I always do at an Irish Open!

“If anything, having no crowds here, I will miss them, but it might help me a little bit because I probably try a little bit hard in front of the crowds at times and it does me in.

“I felt like the last couple of years at the Irish Open have probably been a little bit better than previous years, so no matter what week I go out to play, I do put a bit of pressure on myself and that is just the way I am.

“I just think it is trying to keep the pressure off me a little bit and to go out there and be myself, play golf and don’t get in my own way, and see where that leaves me at the end of the week.”

Ryder Cup captain Padraig Harrington will play in his 25th Irish Open as he returns to action for the first time since March.

Harrington should have been plotting Europe’s plans to retain the Ryder Cup trophy they regained under Thomas Bjorn at Le Golf National in 2018 before the global health crisis pushed the event back to 2021.

The 49-year-old confirmed everything is in hand for next year’s trip to Wisconsin and he is feeling refreshed after six months away from the course.

“I’ve been playing for 25 years, having six months off isn’t a bad thing for me,” the three-time major champion said.

“I spent those six months working a lot on my swing and technique and getting some stuff clear in my own head. The great thing after six months is I’m quite ready to go play some golf.”

He added: “I’m injured – six months off and come back with an injury. I hit a lot of balls and pushed my body a bit too far.

“I’m not competitive, I’m not ready in that sense. You never would be in your first event, but I’m going to give it a shot.”