It’s like a huge pressure valve has been released. Tears of raw emotion after a race to simply make the cut, G-Mac seeing out all four days on home turf, ‘Clarkey’ getting the ball rolling then that bearded smile the breadth of Offaly.
We are spoiled for Major champions on this wee sod. Time and time again Ireland punches above its weight on the international fairways of professional and amateur golf. The impact of what Shane Lowry has just achieved has some way to go yet. His heroic display at Royal Portrush will resonate long into the future.
For years Portrush has held the focus. At times it could be batted away; to be dealt with at another time. But deep down, it kept bubbling, especially for those with a part to play inside the ropes and in full gaze of the world’s media.
Each of our Irish gladiators should be proud of the part they played in the 148th Open. Darren Clarke’s opening tee shot felt like a Ryder Cup moment as those in grandstands wiped sleep from their eyes. It was the perfect marker for a truly historic week that took us all on an emotional roller-coaster.
Rory McIlroy has been unfairly accused of bottling his moment – the moment – of his career to date. It’s time to change that narrative and the week at Portrush is the perfect moment to press the reset button.
Hopefully now Ireland’s most successful golfer can move on and play with the freedom and golfing gift which crafted such a memorable second round 65. If there was any doubt about McIlroy’s hunger and desire for more Majors, that notion has been wiped from the slate. Majors still mean everything for the 30-year-old, and you can be sure Lowry’s success will only fuel that fire.
The 18th left Darren Clarke with a bitter taste in the mouth and the closing par four also caught out Graeme McDowell with their pair of untimely triple bogey sevens. However, the Dunluce Links was a resounding success; it asked all the questions an Open Championship should ask.
The new Champion Golfer of the Year handled course, conditions and the situation best of all and was the deserving runaway winner. With that mesmeric short game and rock of a caddie in Brian ‘Bo’ Martin, Lowry was able to let his golf do the talking. He proved to himself he had the game to become a Major champion. His coach Neil Manchip always believed. The secret was how to unlock such prodigious talent on the biggest stage.
It was absorbing to listen-in on the interaction between Lowry and Martin all week, especially when the pressure gauge was turned up. Martin was the steady hand on the tiller at all times. The trust between the pair meant he was able to offer opinion and advice freely. Discussions were had, messages were clear and concise and such clarity allowed Lowry to pull the trigger with conviction each time.
“He was unbelievable,” said Lowry. “I kept telling him how nervous I was…how much I didn’t want to mess this up. He was great at keeping me in the moment. He’s brought a new lease of life to me. He’s so thrilled too.”
There will never be another Open like the 2019 staging at Portrush. Yes, there will be more Opens at Portrush, but this was unique; the first of the modern era after a 68-year wait. That it got an Irish winner with an infectious smile was simply written in the stars.
This wonderful Antrim venue is now established on the Open rota. The next staging could be sooner rather than later. If that’s the case, the people of Portrush will be ready to deliver once more.
Darren Clarke, Rory McIlroy, Graeme McDowell, Pádraig Harrington, James Sugrue and of course Shane Lowry, you should all take a bow. You did us proud.