After a two-year wait, Shane Lowry signed off on the defence of his Claret Jug with a one-under par round of 69 for a tied 12th finish at Royal St. George’s.
The 2019 champion had it going for a time on Sunday but settled for another astute performance on a Major stage where his six-under par 72-hole total was good enough for a tie for 12th. Lowry’s thrived on the biggest weeks all year with top-10s coming at the Players and the PGA while he also enjoyed two top-25 finishes at the Masters dating back to November.
His latest tied 12th result should do enough to book his seat on the plane to Wisconsin but rather than getting ahead of himself, Lowry was left to reflect on his week as defending champion, one he savoured and one that signals further progress for the 34-year old Clara star.
“I really enjoyed the whole week,” Lowry said. “It was an amazing experience.
“Walking down the last hole today was one of the coolest things you’ll ever get to do, and I got to do it. Like I said, I think it’s been a great week. I obviously would have liked to have finished a little bit better, but it’s a pretty nice result in a big tournament and another good performance.
“I feel like I’ve played four majors, obviously, this year, and I feel like three out of four of them [T65 US Open] I’ve had really good performances, played some of my best golf. If that’s not a step in the right direction, I don’t know what is. I’m pretty happy with my year in the big events.”
For a time on Sunday, Lowry believed things could get even better. A patient five pars to start were followed by birdies at 6 and 7 as Lowry moved to seven-under par and within four shots of the lead. He’d bogey 8 before getting the shot back immediately at the ninth with Lowry turning at minus-seven and inside the top-5 on the board.
He caught a horrendous break in the greenside bunker on 10, forced to chip backwards, only moving his ball about a yard in the sand. A brave up and down meant a good bogey five but when a great chance went awry at 11, the wind left Lowry’s sails. That’s not to say he didn’t fight tooth and nail for every shot on the way in but Lowry could only par home; not left to wonder what might’ve been but left content after a solid week’s work that sets up an exciting few weeks with an Olympics and Ryder Cup high on the radar of an in-form champion.
“Yeah, the first five holes are always tricky around here, and I was pretty happy to play those in par and, and then get to 6, I birdied 6 three out of four days so birdied it again today,” Lowry reflected.
“Then I hit two great shots into 7 to give me a chance at eagle. I was looking at the board thinking, ‘Wow, if I can hole this, I’m really in the tournament.’ It’s good to get my juices flowing.
“I actually hit a great putt there. I thought it was in; just missed and I bogeyed 8. Birdied 9 to have a good 2-under. Front nine was pretty good. I pulled my tee shot on 10 and pulled my second shot — yeah, just a bad break. Something that you get in links golf, but I recovered well.
“Then for the rest of the day, I hit some good putts, and I kind of was leaving myself a little bit too far away. It was hard to get close to some of these flags, and it’s hard to hole 30-footers on these greens because they’re quite slow and it’s hard to get the ball rolling at the hole. All in all, it’s been a great week. Another good performance in a good tournament. I’m happy with myself and I’m proud of myself.”