Shane Lowry becomes fifth Irishman to win Open Championship
SHANE Lowry exorcised the ghosts of Oakmont to claim his first Major title in commanding fashion in the 148th Open at Royal Portrush this evening.
Roared on by a sell-out crowd undeterred by the miserable conditions, Lowry carded a closing 72 to become the fifth Irish player to lift the Claret Jug after Fred Daly, Pádraig Harrington, Darren Clarke and Rory McIlroy. The 32-year-old from Clara in Offaly finished 15 under par, six shots ahead of England's Tommy Fleetwood, with American Tony Finau two strokes further back in third.
World number one Brooks Koepka, who was attempting to become the first player in the modern era to finish in the top two in all four Majors in a calendar year, had to settle for a share of fourth with Lee Westwood, a result which secured the 46-year-old a first Masters appearance since 2017 next April.
Three years after failing to convert a four-shot lead in the final round of the US Open at Oakmont, Lowry took the same advantage into the last day of the first Open staged outside Scotland or England since Max Faulkner triumphed at Portrush in 1951.
Looking understandably nervous, Lowry pulled his opening tee shot and looked on anxiously as his ball headed towards the internal out of bounds which had cost pre-tournament favourite Rory McIlroy so dear on Thursday.
Similarly errant drives had also led to double bogeys for Rickie Fowler and JB Holmes, but Lowry's ball was poorly struck and plunged into the rough, from where he found a greenside bunker with his approach. Fleetwood had found the fairway off the tee and hit a superb second shot to six feet, but missed his birdie attempt and, after a mediocre bunker shot and timid putt, Lowry held his nerve to hole from five feet for just his fourth bogey of the week.
The lead was back to four shots when Fleetwood, who also missed a good birdie chance on the par-five second, bogeyed the third and Lowry moved further clear with a birdie on the fourth which was greeted with a massive cheer from the crowd.
Both players birdied the short fifth before Lowry demonstrated the short-game skills honed in chipping competitions against Harrington by getting up and down from short of the seventh green to pick up another shot.
Lowry, who won the 2009 Irish Open as an amateur in similarly poor weather, looked in total control before a combination of three bogeys in the next four holes and Fleetwood's birdie on the 12th cut the gap to four. However, Fleetwood could not turn the screw and double bogeyed the 14th after finding sand off the tee, meaning Lowry increased his lead to five despite failing to save par from over the green.
Lowry, who sacked his caddie after the first round of last year's Open and missed the cut for the fourth year in succession, had the title in his grasp and a birdie on the 15th had chants of "Ole, Ole, Ole" ringing out around the Dunluce Links. It also meant Lowry's name was etched on the Claret Jug by the time he stepped on to the 18th tee and a regulation par sealed an emphatic triumph, Lowry hugging his caddie Brian 'Bo' Martin before being embraced by wife Wendy and two-year-old daughter Iris.