Shane Lowry added his name to growing roll call of Irish Major champions with a stunning six-shot victory at the 148th Open Championship held at a stormy Royal Portrush Golf Club in Northern Ireland.
After the thrill of Saturday’s stunning 63, which took him into a four-shot lead, Sunday’s bad weather was always going to make it a case of hanging on for dear life, but Lowry did more than that, pulling further clear with a mixture of controlled aggression and safety-first play, as he battled his way to a final round 72 and a 15-under-par winning total.
Standing on the final tee, Lowry had the comfort of being able to take a nine and still lift the Claret Jug, but in typical swashbuckling style, he almost made one last birdie, leaving himself the shortest of tap-ins for another comfortable par before he fell into the arms of his caddie, Bo Martin.
As the wind howled and rain battered Royal Portrush, the crowds still came out in their thousands to cheer on their home-grown hero, albeit from four hours down the road, with the scenes on the 18thgreen surpassing those not seen since Seve’s days.
With a four-shot lead over playing partner Tommy Fleetwood at the start of the final round, Lowry’s lead was never less than that. And whenever he faltered, Fleetwood faltered too, and a double bogey at the 14th from the Englishman, to Lowry’s bogey, effectively ended the contest. Fleetwood, with his putter stone cold, held on to take second with a closing 74 and a nine-under-par total, two shots clear of America’s Tony Finau.
An up-and-down round for Lee Westwood saw him card a two-over 73 for a share of fourth that guarantees him a place at next year’s Masters. He finished on six under alongside world number one Brooks Koepka, who bogeyed the first three holes in a tetchy-looking 74. His playing partner, second round co-leader JB Holmes, fared somewhat worse, collapsing to a closing 87, as the wheels fell off in spectacular fashion.
In contrast, Scotland’s Robert MacIntyre and England’s Tyrrell Hatton were the only two who finished in the top six to fire under-par rounds on Sunday. Much of that will be down to their earlier start time and missing the stormy weather. MacIntyre, making his major debut, hit a three-under-par 68 while Hatton finished on two under. They shared sixth place alongside Danny Willett (73) and Rickie Fowler (74).
Francesco Molinari, the 2018 winner, never really got his defence going, although he did finish on a high by shooting the best round of the day. The Italian, who won by two shots at Carnoustie last year, shot a best-of-the-day 66 to finish tied 11th.
But the day, and the week, belonged to the Champion Golfer of 2019, Shane Lowry, who banished the memories of his last round collapse at the 2016 US Open in spectacular fashion, and in doing so won the hearts of a nation.
“I can’t wait to wake up on Monday morning and find out what it’s going to feel like then. It’s just going to be incredible,” said the winner.
Indeed it will.