The 148th Open will go down in history as one of the great Opens after a week-long party in Portrush ended with a popular winner lifting the Claret Jug for his maiden major victory.
Shane Lowry was sublime on the Dunluce Links as a scintillating Saturday put him in control of the Championship and he kept his nerve to hold off Tommy Fleetwood on a memorable Sunday.
It was fitting that as The Open returned to Northern Ireland for the first time in 68 years, it was a man from the island of Ireland who walked away as Champion Golfer – the county Offaly native thrilling the partisan crowds en route to a six-stroke triumph.
Here’s the story of The 148th Open as it happened.
Clarke gets us going as Grillo’s feeling aces
Portrush resident Darren Clarke got the first Open to be held in Northern Ireland since 1951 underway when he belted the opening tee shot down the 1st fairway and went on to birdie the hole.
The 2011 Champion Golfer led the Championship early on Thursday morning at -3 through five holes before ending his day at level-par – the same score as Amateur Champion and playing partner James Sugrue.
The other two Northern Irishmen in the field fared less well however, as Graeme McDowell was at -3 through 14 before ending the day on +2, while 2014 Champion Golfer Rory McIlroy endured a disaster with a quadruple bogey at the 1st and a triple bogey at the 18th the lowlights of an eight-over 79.
There was happier news for Emiliano Grillo – who claimed the first hole-in-one at The Open since 2016 when he aced the 13th – and Ryan Fox, who set a back-nine record score at The Open of 29 with six birdies in the final seven holes.
But it was veteran American JB Holmes who sat atop the leaderboard overnight after bouncing back from a bogey at the first to post a 66, with Lowry one shot back after an impressive 67 that could have been even lower after a number of near misses on the back-nine.
Lowry moves on up but McIlroy’s charge falls short
Holmes maintained his lead following Friday’s second round as a 68 took him to -8 for the Championship and he was joined atop the pile by Lowry.
The Irishman reached -10 at one stage before a pair of back-nine bogeys set him back but he did enough to ensure he and the American would be the final pair out on Saturday.
English duo Fleetwood and Lee Westwood positioned themselves one shot back but a number of big names missed the cut, including 14 major champions – the likes of Tiger Woods, Phil Mickelson, Jason Day and Adam Scott contained in that number.
McIlroy also went home before the weekend but only after an enthralling attempt to surge up the leaderboard from his starting position of +8 to the cut-line at +1 – a back-nine littered with birdies bringing him to the brink but he couldn’t gain the final stroke he needed on 17 or 18 and ended at +2.
Clarke triple-bogeyed the 18th to immediately drop from safe to missing the cut, while 1996 Champion Golfer Tom Lehman – in the final year of his exemption for winning at Royal Lytham 23 years ago – looked emotional as he walked up the 18th fairway with his son Thomas Jr caddying for him, to a huge ovation in what could be his final Open.
Super Shane produces a round for the age
Saturday at The 148th Open will go down in history as the day Shane Lowry put himself among the Championship’s greats and moved to the verge of an historic victory.
Lowry produced one of the greatest rounds in Open history as an eight-birdie, zero-bogey effort saw him break the Royal Portrush course record on this layout with a breath-taking 63 and he narrowly missed a putt on the last to join Branden Grace as the only man to shoot 62 in a major.
He shared the lead for much of the afternoon with Fleetwood but hit the accelerator to sink five birdies on the back nine – including three in a row on 15, 16 and 17 – to the backdrop of an atmosphere more synonymous with Glastonbury than golf.
The party from the fans afterwards – with football chants and pop songs lauding Lowry reverberating round Portrush long into the night – suggested he had already won the Claret Jug and while that wasn’t the case, the four-stroke lead he could take into Sunday was certainly a huge boon.
Behind Lowry on -16 and Fleetwood at -12 sat Holmes on -10, while major winners Justin Rose and Brooks Koepka were a shot further back on -9. But this was the day Shane Lowry became a national hero.
Lowry seals the deal in style
When Lowry bogeyed the 1st hole on Sunday, it may have brought back memories of throwing away a four-shot lead in the final round of the 2016 US Open and perhaps if Fleetwood had sunk his birdie putts at 1 and 2 it could have been a different story.
However, that three-stroke gap was as close as it got all day – Lowry birdieing the 4th, 5th and 7th to always keep the Englishman at arm’s length and stop an all-time classic shootout developing.
The Sunday tee times had been moved earlier due to an adverse weather forecast in Portrush and the conditions became increasingly wet and windy as the day progressed but the Irishman controlled his golf ball and held his nerve despite three further bogeys.
A six-stroke lead heading into the 18th meant the 32-year-old could enjoy the greatest walk in golf knowing the Claret Jug was waiting for him and his one-over round of 72 meant the winning score was -15, with Fleetwood settling for second on -9.
Tony Finau produced a superb level-par 71 to finish third at -7 but the expected charges from the likes of Westwood, Brooks Koepka and Rickie Fowler never truly materialised, while Francesco Molinari made the most of the benign morning conditions to shoot 66 and end his year as Champion Golfer with a tie for 11th.
But it was Lowry’s day and he soaked in the adulation from an adoring crowd as he lifted the Claret Jug aloft safe in the knowledge that he will forever be in the history books as a Champion Golfer of the Year.