Given that Shane Lowry has had the Claret Jug in his possession for nearly two years now as The Open champion, the high heid yins involved with running golf’s greatest major just have one little request. “Can you please remember to bring it back,” said Martin Slumbers, the chief executive of the R&A.

Then again, the Claret Jug might not want to come back after enjoying its usual high jinks. “I’ve had a great time with it,” said Lowry of the special moments he’s spent with this cherished clump of silverware. “It has been sent to be straightened once. I noticed in an airport scanner there was a bend in it.”

The coronavirus-induced cancellation of last year’s championship meant that Lowry’s defence of the title he’d won in such rollicking fashion at Royal Portrush in 2019 was delayed for 12 months. “In my working life, 2019 at Portrush was one of the best experiences I’ve ever had and cancelling 2020 was probably one of the worst experiences,” added Slumbers.

The show will go on in some form or another this summer, though. “There remains great uncertainty about how it will work but one thing I am clear about is that we will play the 149th Open at Royal St George’s,” declared Slumbers of the on-going questions surrounding attendance figures and general pandemic-related logistics. “I’m keen to get as many spectators in as possible but it could be somewhere between 25 and 75 per cent capacity and that shows the uncertainty we are working in.”

For Lowry, meanwhile, the opportunity to finally defend the Claret Jug is being eagerly anticipated. “It feels like a long time since Portrush,” said the 34-year-old.

On that sodden Sunday on the Antrim coast back in 2019, Lowry remained as sturdy as the basalt columns of the nearby Giant’s Causeway as the Irishman from County Offaly conquered on Northern Irish soil. The whole of Ireland, however, raised a glass to this fine champion. The magnitude of the win would extend far and wide.

“I had the Claret Jug with me in Dubai last year and as I was wheeling it through the hotel, this guy stopped me and asked ‘is that the Claret Jug?’,” reflected Lowry. “He begged me to let him have a look. I opened it up and he held it and started to cry. That’s what it means to people who love golf.

“To have it in my possession for this length of time has been incredible. I have my replica for evermore but it’ll be a sad time giving the Claret Jug back. Hopefully it will only be for a few days. I can assure you it is in good shape and it will be coming back nice and shiny.”

At a jam-packed Portrush, Lowry was carried to victory on a tsunami of patriotic fervour. Like many golfers, he has missed the energy of the galleries. Last weekend’s raucous denouement of the US PGA Championship, in which he finished in a tie for fourth, was right up his street. “It had a proper major feel,” he said. “I love majors, I love big weeks. Last year with no crowds, I felt I struggled. It was hard to get the intensity. The pictures I have and the ones my mum has with all the Irish people behind me when I won in 2019 are incredible.

“When I heard The Open had been cancelled last year, obviously I was disappointed. Selfishly I wanted to be able to go to events like the Irish Open in front of the crowds as Open champion. I missed stuff like that.

“But hopefully, it will be all worthwhile when we get to St George’s and I get the upside of defending in front of a few people.”

How many people exactly remains up in the air. In a topsy-turvy, fluid situation, Slumber concedes that his flexible team are planning infrastructure “not just for one Open but three” to deal with changes to guidelines. “The big uncertainty for us is clarity with Government and health authorities around social distancing,” he said. “That will determine what the atmosphere will be like at The Open.”

Whatever transpires, Lowry will be hoping to make more of an impact on St George’s than he did the last time he played it. “I played there in the Amateur Championship in 2006, shot an 81 in qualifying and I haven’t been back since,” he said with a chuckle.