On a brutal final day at Royal Portrush, Shane Lowry blew the field away to win the Claret Jug by six shots. Neil Tappin looks at the significance of this incredible achievement
Certain sporting victories carry more significance than others. Shane Lowry’s triumph on a brutal final day at the 148th Open Championship at Royal Portrush will resonate far beyond the boundaries of purely sporting circles. From the moment Lowry charged through the field in round three, the island of Ireland rallied together, collectively pushing their man over the winning line. This was a victory for the Emerald Isle, north and south, and the magnitude of the moment was impossible to ignore.
That this was a golf event like no other was glaringly apparent as Shane Lowry entered the 18th hole amphitheatre, six shot lead in tow and the booming roars bellowed out across the Antrim coast. The Irish fans were celebrating one of their own, a natural talent who blew the field away to capture an Open Championship like no other.
From the moment Lowry stepped onto the first tee with a four shot lead and 18 holes left to play, it felt as if the hand of history was resting on the 32 year-old’s shoulder. Of course, winning major sporting events for the first time is never easy and at times Lowry struggled to shake free the nervous shackles that were understandably evident. His opening swing was anxious, uncertain and it led to a bogey that gave the chasing pack genuine hope. But the County Offaly man steadied the ship with two pars and hit back with a birdie on the tough 4th hole and followed it up with a regulation three at the iconic par 4 5th. These were the crucial exchanges that allowed Lowry to put pressure back on the chasing pack, a pressure that ultimately proved too much in strong winds and driving rain.
If round three was spectacular, Lowry’s final 18 was the definition of determination. His one over par score of 72 might have been his worst of the week but in many ways it was his most impressive. If anyone knows how difficult sleeping on a four shot major lead is, its Lowry himself – he failed to get across the line in the same position at the 2016 US Open. On this occasion, however, his opening bogey simply seemed to narrow his focus, jolting him back into the present. This time, you felt, it was going to be different.
Of course, the other contenders were waging their own war against the Dunluce links and in truth, were unable to exert any real pressure of their own.
Tommy Fleetwood began the round looking like a man with the bit between his teeth. His approach to the opening hole finished closer than anyone. The Englishman’s birdie putt slipped past, and the tone for the day was set for Tommy.
Fleetwood fought well until he reached the relatively benign 14th hole. His 3-wood off the tee finished in the fairway bunker and when his approach buried itself into a mound to the right of the green, the resulting double bogey left Lowry five ahead with just four to play.
When Lowry birdied the 15th to move six clear, the R&A’s engraver-in-residence set to work. The destiny of this year’s Claret Jug was decided.
And so back to those incredible scenes on the 18th green. Holding the trophy aloft, Lowry’s final words at the presentation were left for the crowds who seemed to play a far more tangible role in this win than in any other. “This one’s for you.”
The significance of this comment and the moment itself cannot be underestimated.