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The 148th Open Royal Portrush

Shane Lowry


How he won the Claret Jug

For the next 12 months at least, Shane Lowry can call himself Champion Golfer of the Year after a brilliant performance at Royal Portrush to seal The 148th Open.

The Irishman was both a deserving and popular winner – just ask the fans in attendance, who brought a party atmosphere to the Northern Irish venue that more resembled Glastonbury than golf.

Football chants and pop songs reverberated around the Dunluce Links following a scintillating Saturday that put the 32-year-old in control, before celebrations ratcheted up a notch after he sealed victory on Sunday.

Lowry’s six-stroke victory over Tommy Fleetwood meant he became just the fourth player in the last 50 years – after Rory McIlroy, Louis Oosthuizen and Tiger Woods – to clinch his first major by more than five shots, so allow us to tell you the story of how he won the Claret Jug.

Fast start sets the tone

Getting off to a good start is crucial to any major challenge and Lowry certainly did that as he posted a four-under-par 67 on Thursday to lie just one stroke behind leader JB Holmes.

With The Open returning to Northern Ireland for the first time in 68 years, the pressure was on every golfer from the island of Ireland, yet the future Champion Golfer settled in nicely with birdies at the 3rd, 5th, 9th and 10th.

A shot drifted away at the 11th but was immediately regained at 12 and although a number of birdie chances slipped by towards the end of the back nine, the Irishman was content with a round that put him right in the mix.

“I suppose I was quite anxious going out there this morning,” he said after his round. “I felt very unconfident on the first tee and the wind was up early but the first few holes played okay – I got off to a nice solid start.

“Then I was off and running and I was enjoying myself. I played some good golf.

“Initially I was probably as nervous as I've been in quite a while on the first tee, almost ever, I'd say.

“Nerves are a good thing, aren't they? It's where you want to be. I just hope I'm nervous on Sunday afternoon out there.”

How prescient that would prove to be.

That Friday feeling

Following his Thursday round, Lowry admitted he was happy to fly under the radar somewhat – especially in comparison to the Northern Irish heroes Darren Clarke, Rory McIlroy and Graeme McDowell – but there was no danger of that once he leapt into the lead on Friday.

The benign conditions on Friday morning meant that although Lowry had started the day in second place, one stroke off the lead, by the time he teed off in the afternoon he had plummeted down the leaderboard through no fault of his own.

But he roared out of the blocks like a caged tiger – birdieing each of the first three holes, as well as the 5th and the 8th to head out in just 31 strokes.

Another birdie at the 10th got him to -10 for the Championship but bogeys at 14 and 18 dampened the mood slightly, although a 67 still meant he shared the lead at -8 with Holmes heading into moving day.

“Obviously it could have been better,” mused Lowry following the round. “Every day you play golf it could have been better but it could have been worse as well.

“You start thinking about winning The Open when people start asking you about it! I'm obviously going to be thinking about it tonight – there's no point in shying away from it, I'm in a great position.

“But, my God, have we got a long way to go. There's two rounds of golf on this golf course against the best field in the world.”

Scintillating Saturday

Lowry was keen to stay in the moment but by the end of Saturday, he had to be getting ahead of himself at least a little bit following one of the greatest rounds in Open history.

An eight-under-par 63 broke the Portrush course record since its remodelling in 2016, as he finished just one stroke worse off the lowest major round of all time and set a new 54-hole scoring record at The Open.

It was a flawless exhibition of golf as he birdied the 3rd, 5th and 9th to set him up for a back-nine blitz for the ages – strokes gained at 10, 12, 15, 16 and 17 completing the 63 to earn a four-shot lead over nearest rival Tommy Fleetwood at -16.

An atmosphere perhaps never seen at The Open before followed the round as fans belted out football chants and pop songs lauding their hero long into the night. Portrush had come to party.

“Honestly, that's the most incredible day I've ever had on the golf course. I honestly can't explain what it was like,” added Lowry afterwards.

“I said to my caddie walking off the 17th tee ‘we might never have a day like this on the golf course again, so let's enjoy this next half-hour’. And that's what I did – the crowd was incredible.

“Walking from the green to the next tee, the people are literally a yard away from you roaring in your face as loud as they can. If you have to get up and hit a drive down a tight fairway, it's fairly difficult.

“I thought I dealt with it very well today and hopefully I do the same tomorrow. I felt like I could come here under the radar a little bit but obviously I'm not quite under the radar anymore.”

No he wasn’t!

Sunday grit sees him home

With the start times moved earlier due to an adverse weather forecast, and the incredible pressure that comes with the final day at The Open, Sunday was always going to be a different kettle of fish.

Four strokes clear of playing partner Fleetwood heading into the round, Lowry didn’t need to shoot low, he just needed to manage the conditions and the occasion.

He did both perfectly – bouncing back from a dispiriting bogey on the 1st that could’ve derailed him to post birdies on the 4th, 5th and 7th that got him as low as -18 and a seven-stroke advantage despite the wind and the rain.

Winning your maiden major doesn’t come easy though and the Irishman then made three bogies in the next six holes that enabled Fleetwood to get back to within four.

However, things turned at the 14th as Lowry again bogeyed, only for his rival to make a double bogey and a brilliant birdie at the 15th allowed the crowd favourite to enjoy the final three holes with a hefty advantage.

The walk down the 18th with the Claret Jug waiting for him at the end was the greatest moment of his career and an eventual 72 saw him end the Championship at -15, six clear of Fleetwood and a lifelong dream achieved.

“I knew I was home and hosed down 18,” grinned Lowry after becoming Champion Golfer of the Year.

“I let myself enjoy it and it was incredible walking down 18, they were singing and going mad. I could not believe it was happening to me.

“I spotted my family when I walked around the corner to have a look at the green and I welled up a little bit. I still had to play a decent shot but luckily I did.

“It is huge for Irish golf and big for Irish sport. I am a huge sports fan and I think there are people back home who watched golf, that have never watched it before.”

Lowry’s incredible victory should send a seismic wave through the golfing world and the victor of The 148th Open is the most worthy of Champion Golfers after an Open that will live long in the memory.

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