Ireland’s Shane Lowry remains calm to win first major at the Open as rivals fade

The 32 -year-old became the Republic of Irelands second Open champion after Padraig Harrington, as Englands Tommy Fleetwood finished second, six shots behind

Padraig Harrington, Graeme McDowell, Rory McIlroy, Darren Clarke … Shane Lowry. We will soon have to amend the great book of Irish cliche to include reference to golf. This small island has now returned 10 major victories in the last 12 years.

Lowry’s procession towards the Claret Jug, as high winds howled and rainfall battered Royal Portrush, really was the stuff of dreams. He strolled to the 18 th tee on Sunday evening knowing he could take nine and still win. On the Open’s first departure from the UK mainland since 1951, in the country where golf has always been afforded a united front as division defined so much else, the man from County Offaly refused to wilt.

Some sniffily question whether or not golf’s level of athletic quest even qualifies it as a sport. The endurance shown by Lowry here delivered the perfect counterpoint. He did likewise to those, including somewhat ungraciously some of his fellow professionals, who publicly wondered whether not closing out the 2016 US Open from a winning position would affect matters here. Lowry cantered- and smiled – his style to ultimate glory. By the 72 nd pit, he had to fight his way through delirious punters simply to reach the green. Northern Ireland and the Open has proved a fruitful combination; Lowry revelled in his appearance at a venue where he prevailed in the North of Ireland Amateur Championship, 11 years ago.” I feel like it’s an out-of-body experience ,” said Lowry.” What a day .”

Before today the winner of the 148 th Open was not even the most famous sportsman in his own home. Brendan Lowry, the golfer’s father, was a prolific scorer as an All Ireland football championship winner in 1982. A year ago at this very event, Lowry was in the depths of despair and split with his long-term caddie en route to a missed cut. The promise displayed when Lowry won the Irish Open- when still an amateur- in 2009 was in danger of being undermined by harsh reality. Golfing fortune and high-profile reward apparently favour the good guys; at the age of 32, Lowry has marched his way into illustrious company. His is a hugely popular success.

The margin of victory illustrates a comfortable afternoon for Lowry, the first bearded win of an Open since Bob Ferguson pocketed PS47 5s at St Andrews in 1882. Lowry- now PS1. 55 m richer- prevailed by six strokes, at 15 under par, from Tommy Fleetwood. The scale of Lowry’s performance is highlighted by numbers; his closing 72- one over par- was his highest round of the Open by five.

There had, though, been brief cause for Lowry to fret. As he took to the 1st, JB Holmes and Rickie Fowler in the groups immediately ahead had whacked tee shots out of bounds.

Right on cue, a tetchy four shots left Lowry with 5ft for an opening bogey as Fleetwood gazed down a birdie chance from not much further. Fleetwood’s putt slid past; Lowry punched the air when saving five. Further missed opportunities for Fleetwood culminated at the short par-four 5th, where he traded birdies with Lowry having had just 10 ft for an eagle. At that stage, 17 under played 12.

By the 11 th tee, Lowry’s minus 16 had Fleetwood requiring binoculars from second place at 10 under. In illustrating his wonderful competitive spirit, the Englishman cut that leading by two but a double bogey at the 14 th was a significant blow to his Open aspirations. Lowry slammed the door on Fleetwood with a birdie three on 15. Only one of the great sporting capitulations of our time could halt Lowry from there; it did not transpire.

Shane
Shane Lowry hugs Tommy Fleetwood after the Irishman’s victory was confirmed. Photograph: Kevin C Cox/ Getty Images

The scale of the afternoon squall meant those safely ensconced in the clubhouse constructed ground- and fund. Tony Finau’s 71 afforded him third place. Bob MacIntyre, on his Open debut, shared sixth with Tyrrell Hatton, Danny Willett and Fowler at minus five. MacIntyre punched his ticket for Sandwich in 12 months’ period with that finish.

Brooks Koepka was unlike Creeks Koepka when falling shots on each of the first four holes. Still, his 74 entailed a tie for fourth with Lee Westwood. The latter’s back nine of 38 will sting.

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In proving how golf can be far from elementary, Holmes entirely capitulated after three days at the forefront of proceedings. His 87 left him in a tie-in for 67 th, a instead extraordinary scenario given his showing in the first three rounds.

McDowell was visibly moved by the scenes at the 72 nd hole as he completed a final round of 77. The former US Open winner, whose home is Portrush, played such a key role in the Open’s return to the north Antrim coast. McDowell admitted he had” heard the whispers” the last major of the year could be back by 2024 but, for now, there is no more than that. McDowell’s most effusive kudo, fittingly, was for Lowry as the champion-elect simultaneously battled the elements on the back nine.

” I recollect the first day I gratified him ,” McDowell said.” I had just shot 61 at Baltray, the week he won the Irish Open. He came in and shot 62, he didn’t even introduce himself, he said:’ I can’t believe you beat me by one out there today .’ And I’m like:’ Who’s this kid ?’

” We’ve become very good friends. I’ve always respected his game so much because he’s very ballsy. He’s a phenomenal driver of the ball. He’s maybe the best chipper I’ve ever seen. He’s a great kid. He would be a great Open champion .”

Soon, there was no ” would” about it. Shane Lowry: Open champion. The Emerald Isle’s love affair with golf’s greatest stages is as harmonious as ever. Some craic.

Read more: www.theguardian.com

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