The nation can breathe again. Shane Lowry is a Major Champion.
10 years since he captured the hearts of Ireland when winning his National Open at Baltray, the Clara golfer, in familiar driving wind and rain, put the field to the sword at Royal Portrush to become the fifth Irishman to win the Open Championship.
“It’s not going to sink in for a couple of days, is it?”, said a surprisingly calm Lowry post-round. “I just can’t believe I’m sitting here with this trophy. I said it to Bo [caddie] coming down 18 that I couldn’t believe it was me – I couldn’t believe it was happening.
“I thought about it all day but I didn’t really think about it until I hit the tee shot on 17. As soon as I hit that tee shot I knew I couldn’t really lose a ball from there! It’s an incredible feeling.”
Starting with a four-shot lead, Lowry’s name atop the board never came under threat with his one-over par final round 72 and 15-under total six shots better than valiant runner-up, Tommy Fleetwood.
It was a day written in the clouds for Lowry; the Offaly man taking the torrential rain in his stride as the names of Holmes, Koepka and Fowler faded down the board. In the end it proved a shootout with playing partner Fleetwood, but no matter how hard the Englishman tried, he could never get within three shots of Lowry.
It was a shaky start for the expectant leader; his nerves showing with two edgy shots that found him in the bunker at the opening hole. An unlikely up-and-down proved just that with Fleetwood parring to get within three. It’s a testament to Lowry’s abilities that that’s as close as Tommy came all day.
Lowry settled into his work with pars on 2 and 3 before distancing himself from the field with three brilliant birdies in four holes to move to 18-under par. It was never going to be that simple and as conditions worsened, Lowry briefly struggled.
He posted four bogeys from 8-14 as the heavens opened but just as the door looked to be slightly ajar for Fleetwood on 14, it was slammed shut when the Englishman fatted his fairway bunker shot into the high hay before taking four more to get down; his double-bogey timely in taking the pressure off Lowry.
And it surely showed. Lowry sent a crushing drive down the 15th hole before arrowing his approach to five feet. A nation may have been still holding its breath at that stage but when the crucial putt went in, it was met with a roar worthy of greeting any winning moment in a Championship, and an exhale in relief.
From there it was a procession as Lowry parred home for an historic win; his wife Wendy and Daughter Iris, his family and friends, Graeme McDowell and Padraig Harrington all amongst those swarming the first-time Major winner whose beaming smile broke through the clouds.
The 148th Open Championship had been billed as something special. Royal Portrush and all its ground-staff produced a masterpiece, but it was Shane Lowry’s winning performance that gave the tournament the Champion it deserved.
“It was very nice of Paddy and GMac to be standing on the back of the green for me, and Gary Murphy was there as well who was a good friend of mine and great to me when I started out on Tour.
“Obviously to have all my friends and family – I spotted my family on 18 when I walked around the corner to have a look where the flag was – I spotted them all at the back of the green and to be honest, I welled up a little bit. Bo told me to catch a hold of myself – ‘you still have to hit a shot!’
“I walked down there and tried to soak it in as much as I could. It was hard to soak it in because it’s a very surreal experience.”
It might feel surreal right now but tomorrow morning, Shane Lowry will be waking up next to a glistening Claret Jug. No doubt his smiling face will be reflecting in it.
Full Scoring HERE