Shane Lowry achieved a lifelong dream as he became Champion Golfer of the Year for the first time after holding his nerve in a Sunday battle with Tommy Fleetwood at The 148th Open in Royal Portrush.
With The Open returning to Northern Ireland for the first time since 1951, it was fitting that a man from the island of Ireland should lift the Claret Jug and the county Offaly native did so by coping with wet and windy conditions on a memorable Sunday.
The 32-year-old had built enough of a lead that he could enjoy the greatest walk in golf up the 18th fairway knowing the Claret Jug was waiting for him – becoming just the second Irishman to lift it, after Padraig Harrington.
A scintillating Saturday 63 had given Lowry a four-shot lead over Fleetwood and more over the rest of the field but an Open Sunday puts pressure on every golfer and no advantage is safe until the final putt is sunk.
A bogey on the 1st, coupled with a par from his English playing partner that could have been a birdie, reduced the gap to three strokes but from there, the Irishman gathered himself and produced consistently gritty golf to claim his first major title.
Birdies on the 4th, 5th and 7th got him as low as -18 although three bogies in the next six holes enabled Fleetwood to get back to within four.
But 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.
He eventually signed for a score of 72 which saw him end the Championship at -15 and Fleetwood could only shake the new Champion Golfer’s hand as he finished six strokes back.
Tony Finau produced a superb level-par 71 to finish third at -7 but the expected charges from the likes of Lee Westwood, Brooks Koepka and Rickie Fowler never truly materialised.
Westwood and Koepka ended in a tie for fourth at -6, while Fowler was a shot further back in joint sixth – alongside Danny Willett who shot a 73 and Robert MacIntyre (68) and Tyrrell Hatton (69), who took advantage of the benign morning conditions to post scores that only improved as the day progressed.
Last year’s Champion Golfer Francesco Molinari also finished strongly with a Sunday-best round of 66 that saw him leap up to -3 for the Championship and a tie for 11th.
But it was Lowry’s day, as he soaked in the adulation from a partisan crowd walking down the 18th for the greatest moment of his golfing career.