Shane Lowry compared his Open win to an out-of-body experience as he walked into the history books with a gladiatorial final round at a raucous Royal Portrush.
The Champion Golfer of the Year won by six shots from Tommy Fleetwood but the final round was almost unbearably tense in dreadful conditions, before Fleetwood’s charge faded.
Lowry – fuelled by a rock-concert atmosphere, with the crowd cheering and singing his name – kept his nerve, shooting a final-round 72 to finish on -15.
The wins secures him a maiden major and he is only the second Irishman to win The Open, following in the footsteps of two-time Champion Golfer Padraig Harrington.
“It was hard to soak it in because it was a surreal experience. I am sure there was a lot of the crowd that wanted me to win,” said the man from Offaly.
“I am feeling unbelievably calm to be honest. I don’t know why. It won’t sink in for a couple of days. I cannot believe it was me.
“I knew I was home and hosed down 18. 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 thought about it all day but I was fighting that and trying to not let myself think about it - but as soon as I hit that tee shot on 17, I knew. It is an incredible feeling.”
With the wind and rain battering the Antrim coast, the tee times were brought forward but Lowry’s four-shot lead quickly went down to three when he bogeyed the first.
The dreadful conditions might have been tough to negotiate but it also meant most of the chasing pack faded, with the likes of Lee Westwood, Justin Rose, Brooks Koepka and Rickie Fowler falling down the leaderboard.
That left Fleetwood as the sole challenger but he also struggled to make a serious charge, with Lowry at one stage reaching -18 for a seven-stroke advantage.
But leading The Open on Sunday afternoon inevitably causes nerves and Lowry dropped three shots in four holes around the turn – inviting Fleetwood back into the fight.
However, he scrambled well and kept his nerve down the back nine, with a birdie at 15 cementing a famous win.
“I had a healthy lead going out and hit a ropey tee shot on the 1st. I hit a nice one for the second but it didn’t go as far and it looked like being a three-shot swing but it was just one so that was good,” he said.
“I saw everyone was struggling because it was hard out there. It was incredible, the rain coming down.
“I spotted my family [wife Wendy and daughter Iris] 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.
“I struggled last night because we finished late. I got back, had food and went to bed at 11 but I didn’t sleep very well. I was thinking about all sorts and up at six this morning.”
“I knew I had to fight to the bitter end and that helped me out there.”