PORTRUSH, Northern Ireland: Shane Lowry made the 68 years between Open Championships in Northern Ireland worth the wait.
The silver claret jug is staying on the Emerald Isle.
Lowry, the 32-year-old Irishman with stout nerves and a soft touch around the greens, endured the worst weather of the week and the Sunday pressure of a sellout crowd cheering him along to win the Open by six shots at Royal Portrush.
Even as the rain stopped, the tears began flowing.
“I can’t believe this is me standing here,” Lowry said as he cradled golf’s oldest trophy. “I can’t believe this is mine.”
It was never really in doubt.
Lowry closed with a 1-over 72, the first time since 1996 the Open champion was over par in the final round, and it was no less impressive. More difficult than the rain was wind strong enough to break an umbrella. Lowry began making bogeys in the middle of the round without losing ground. No one from the last 12 groups broke par.
And no one got closer than three shots all day of Lowry, who finished at 15-under 269.
Tommy Fleetwood found it hard to take solace in his second-place finish at the Open as he failed to reel in Shane Lowry at Royal Portrush on Sunday.
The Englishman finished six shots behind Lowry after shooting a three-over par round of 74 in horrendous weather conditions.
But he was left to rue a series of missed chances early on to put pressure on the Irishman.
“If I could pick one event it would be The Open. It’s my dream, and it always will be and you’re teeing off in the last group on Sunday with a very, very good chance,” said Fleetwood.
“It feels a lot rougher finishing when you feel like you’ve come so close to what you’ve dreamt as a kid.”
Fleetwood was still in the hunt at four shots back with six to play, but a double bogey at the 14th realistically ended his challenge.
“Them first few holes, when you start four back are pretty crucial. I didn’t do a good enough job of sort of pressing at that point,” he added.
“Struggled in the middle and four back with six to go and still in it, but 14 was a killer blow.”
American Tony Finau was the only player in the final 10 groups to not finish over par for the day as howling wind and heavy rain made low scoring nearly impossible.
But Fleetwood paid tribute to Lowry’s ability to handle the conditions and the tension to win his first major title with a 72 to finish 15-under par.
“When we got on to eight, nine, 10, just shocking, shocking weather. It was really, really difficult. I made a par on nine that felt like a birdie,” added Fleetwood.
“It was just tough. I think everybody would have got to a point and start going backwards.
“When the winds are like that on a links course, it plays hard, that’s just the way it is. You’ve got to do your bit.
“I think that makes Shane’s round of one-over even more impressive, controlling the day like he did.”
(With AFP and AP)