Final day at The Open, and Irish eyes were smiling on one of its own; Shane Lowry who takes home the claret jug with a convincing six strokes amid emotional scenes at Royal Portrush on Sunday. Unrelenting support by the sellout crowd saw the 32-year-old lowry from Louth in the Republic of Ireland stay of England’s Tommy Fleetwood, despite a run of bogeys on the back 9.
He carded A one-over-par 72 in strong winds and intermittent rain which buffeted the late starters. "My mum and dad, they sacrificed so much for me when I was younger and I'm so happy I can hand them this trophy tonight," Lowry said as he clutched the Claret Jug, his voice cracking with emotion. He finished at 15-under 269, while Englishman Tommy Fleetwood, the only player to apply any semblance of pressure on Lowry, shot 74 for second place.
Lowry had teed off with a four-shot lead and as the other contenders fell away it quickly turned into a head-to-head duel between Lowry and Fleetwood. "I got off to a very shaky start," said Lowry, who had to sink a six-foot putt to salvage bogey at the first. "I didn't feel great out there. It's probably the most uncomfortable I've ever felt on a golf course. You're trying to win an Open in your home country, it's incredibly difficult." But once he settled down and looked at a leaderboard he noticed that nobody was making a run at him. He needed to avoid any big numbers on his card and duly did so, making nothing worse than bogey.
Even three straight bogeys around the turn hardly dented his lead, and a six-foot birdie at the 15th hole that extended his margin to six strokes allowed him to almost enjoy a processional victory march up the final three holes.
"It was just so difficult," he said. "I kept telling myself bogeys are not going to hurt you, let's just keep the ball in play and if I make the odd par it will be pretty good. "It turned into a two-horse race between me and Tommy towards the at the end which was quite nice because I could keep an eye on him." Lowry savored the walk up the 18th, greeted as one of their own by the singing gallery who packed the stands.
After hitting his final approach shot he held his arms aloft in celebration and hugged his caddie, assured finally that there would be no late disaster. He became the second player from south of the border, after Padraig Harrington in 2007 and 2008, to lift the Claret Jug, a fitting end to the first Open played in Northern Ireland since 1951.
Players from Ireland and Northern Ireland have won five of the past 13 Opens, with Darren Clarke (2011) and Rory McIlroy (2014) also hoisting the trophy.