Shane Lowry revels in the wet weather to write himself into Open history book
SHANE Lowry, who famously blew a chance to win the US Open at Oakmount in 2016, battled some horrendous weather conditions to win the Open Championship at Royal Portrush.
The 32-year-old from Clara who was composed and controlled all week, fired a final round 72 (+1) to win this historic staging of the tournament.
“It's not going to sink in for a couple of days, is it?,” said Lowry, who won the North of Ireland Championship as an amateur at Royal Portrush way back in 2008.
“It's just incredible to be sitting here with a trophy in front of me. Look at the names on it. I couldn't believe that it was me. I couldn't believe it was happening. I thought about it all day but I didn't really let myself think about it until I hit my tee shot on 17. As soon as I hit that tee shot I knew that I couldn't really lose a ball from there, and that's how I felt. So it's an incredible feeling, yeah.”
The R&A moved the tee times back by a couple of hours in expectation of some very bad weather. The wind and rain did hit just as the leaders reached the turn but it played into Lowry's hands with the chasing pack unable to mount any challenge.
The question was, could Shane manage his own expectations and control his nerves enough to keep the nearest rival, Tommy Fleetwood at arm's reach?
“I had a nice healthy lead going out and I hit a ropy tee shot on the first. I hit actually a decent second shot but it didn't go as far as I thought it was going to go. I actually hit a lovely shot,” added Shane.
“Then you're standing on the first green, Tommy [Fleetwood] has a great chance of birdie and I'm putting for bogey from eight feet. There's a potential three-shot swing. He misses, I make, and there's only one shot. That settled me an awful lot.
“Then around the turn, I had a look at a few leaderboards, and it was so hard out there. When that big shower came in on the eighth, the ninth tee shot was just like put the ball down and hope for the best because it was incredible, the rain that was coming down.
“I started to feel comfortable after 14. To be honest, I thought I played the last five holes incredibly well. And I felt incredibly good. I felt like I was going to do it, especially after 14 when Tommy had a double and I had a bogey.”
With the likes of Brooks Koepka and Justin Rose failing to contend, the back nine developed into something of a duel between Fleetwood and Lowry for who could make the least mistakes. It was Lowry who prevailed, especially over that closing stretch and Fleetwood could do nothing but acknowledge that he had been outplayed.
“He never lost control of himself. He made some key putts at key times, even down to the first hole, you know,” said Fleetwood.
“He did better in those moments than I did today. I just didn't convert the putts at time. And my errant shots, I didn't do a great job of fixing them. But to lead by four at the start of the day and to keep that and to just control, he literally controlled the tournament from the start of today until the end, and that's a very, very impressive thing to do.”
Fleetwood eventually finished second on nine under par, six shots behind the Champion golfer of the Year. American Tony Finau grabbed third on seven-under with Brooks Keopka and Lee Westwood sharing fourth on six under. The plaudits, however, were reserved for Lowry, who made a special point of thanking his caddy, Ardglass born Brian (Bo) Martin.
“Bo has been incredible the last year. He started caddying for me about September last year, and just when I started to play well again. So he's just, like, he's brought a new lease on life to me. He is so chilled,” added Shane.
“He was unbelievable today. He kept on my back all day, kept talking to me, he kept in my ear. I kept on telling him how nervous I was, how scared I was, how much I didn't want to mess it up and all I could think about was walking down 18 with a four or five shot lead. And lucky I got to do that. He's been great for me. Like I said, you see my results since then have been good.
“Obviously we have formed a great relationship and it was amazing for him today. They had a baby two weeks ago and his wife drove up today, and his little boy was here. It was amazing. I've known Bo a long time.
"He's now become a very good friend of mine. And to be able to share it with someone so close was very special, yeah.”