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The 148th Open Royal Portrush

Shane Lowry


The making of the Champion Golfer of the Year

We were warned. As Shane Lowry walked off the back of the 18th green at Royal Liverpool in 2014, he predicted this day would come.

"I know if I have a chance down the line, I can play the golf,” he said after a brisk 65 that saw him tie for eighth at The 143rd Open.

"I'm very comfortable in these surroundings. I love links golf and I think I'm good in bad conditions.”

You bet he is. The manner in which the 32-year-old walked away with the Claret Jug only made it only stranger that it had taken him five years to do it.

However, things since have not always gone quite to plan and it is only last year that Lowry sat slumped in his car at Carnoustie, tears in his eyes as he mourned both his love of golf and his ability to play it.

This time, he cried with the Claret Jug in his hand.

Boy, did he teach the rest of a field a lesson at Royal Portrush as he took on the swirling wind and soaking rain to deliver a masterclass in survival.

Such was his concentration, focus and determination that it was only when his head emerged into sight over the crest of the hill leading to the 18th green that he allowed himself to soak it in – cheered on by those from the north and those from the south of this island, who managed to make The 148th Open feel like one giant homecoming as golf’s original major returned for the first time in 68 years.

For them and for Lowry, it was worth the wait.

Sport in his blood

Lowry is Offaly through and through. The Irish county, slap bang in the middle of the island, is where his father Brendan excelled at Gaelic football, starring in the 1982 All-Ireland Football final alongside brothers Mick and Sean.

In a remote county of just under 80,000 people, football rules in Offaly. Lowry said in a school of 500, he was the only one who chose golf.

Yet it was obvious from the beginning that his talent was worth persisting with and as a 20-year-old he made his first steps towards the professional game by beating Niall Turner 4&3 to become Irish Amateur champion.

The following year he paved the way for his Open win by claiming the North of Ireland Amateur Championship at Royal Portrush. It was a sign of things to come.

Amazing amateur

As an amateur, most players dip their toe into the professional circuit. Lowry near caused a tidal wave.

In 2009, he won the Irish Open, seeing off Robert Rock on the third extra hole of a sudden death play-off, to become the third amateur to win a European Tour event, following New Zealand’s Danny Lee and Spain’s Pablo Martin.

A blistering 62 set the stage and from there he held on for three further rounds to force a play-off.

“He had four great days. It was so impressive to back up his 62 on Friday with Saturday, and then Sunday’s (performance) tops it all,” said two-time Champion Golfer Padraig Harrington in the wake of that win.

“I’ve only met him at the (Irish) Golf Writers’ awards and he seems a confident lad, which you need (on tour). With a two-year exemption, there’s no rush.”

Move over Sir Nick

Lowry opted to turn professional in the wake of that win, although he missed the cut at his first three tournaments.

However, cream rises to the top and he qualified for his first Open at St Andrews in 2010 by equalling Nick Faldo’s course record at Sunningdale with a 62 in qualifying.

“St Andrews is going to be great. I said at the start of the year it’s one tournament I wanted to play,” he said – before going to record a T-37 finish.

Further major appearances followed at the 2010 PGA Championship and 2011 US Open but he missed the cut both times, while it took him until 2012 to secure his professional title – the Portugal Masters by a stroke from Ross Fisher.

The Englishman missed from four feet on the final hole and, with the win, Lowry was inside the top 100 in the world and eligible for World Golf Championship events, while he returned to The Open at Muirfield in 2013 where he finished T-32.

The rise

Lowry’s ascent gathered pace and he excelled at Royal Liverpool on his way to that T-9 finish in The 143rd Open, seven strokes off winner Rory McIlroy.

But it was in August 2015 when he really made a splash on the global stage, with a two-stroke win at the Bridgestone Invitational from two-time Masters champion Bubba Watson.

He became a consistent force at majors too, with a T-9 at the 2015 US Open and then a T-2 a year later – although he had led by four strokes heading into the final round before melting away.

Shane’s struggles

But just as he became a force in the game, Lowry’s form alarmingly dipped.

He missed the cut at six of the next eight majors and his ranking fell too low to compete in the Masters in 2018, while he lost complete confidence by the time it came to The 147th Open.

Carnoustie is as tough a course as you can wish to play, especially when your form is out, and Lowry admits he reached a new low.

“I sat in the car park in Carnoustie on Thursday, almost a year ago right to this week, and I cried,” he said.

“Golf wasn't my friend at the time. It was something that had become very stressful and it was weighing on me and I just didn't like doing it. Look what a difference a year makes.”

With a new caddie in Bo Martin, Lowry’s form gradually returned and he finished T-8 at the PGA Championship.

Now, he is Champion Golfer of the Year – like he always said he would be.

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