Portrush, 21 July 2019: On a day marked by bouts of rain and gusting winds, Shane Lowry weathered the storm with some stoic golf. Starting with a four-stroke advantage, he kept Tommy Fleetwood at bay before pulling six clear at the 15th with a decisive birdie to all but secure a maiden major victory.
In the end he won by a massive six-stroke margin over a battling Fleetwood to emulate Padraig Harrington as the only men to have lifted the Claret Jug. The fact that this victory came amidst their own made it all the more sweeter. Shubhankar Sharma had a good week in Portrush, closing with a 68 to finish in T51 at 287.
Amidst a chorus of cheers for Irishman Shane Lowry and Englishman Tommy Fleetwood, the final round of the 148th Open Championship had everything one might expect from a final round of a major tournament. Nervous off the tee, Lowry sailed into the left rough, courted the bunker before squeezing out a bogey to begin his journey toward immortality. The Irishman had tasted success here when he won the Irish Open in 2009 as an amateur, but this Sunday was a whole new level.
If you believe his fans, Fleetwood is the son of God, immortal just for his golden locks of hair and chirpy eyes. He made no such error, taking the fairway road to reach the green as appointed. But he exposed his nerves with a frail putt that ran past the edge, settling for a par.
The two men were on a historic sojourn, the winner carving his name into European golfing folklore. No Englishman has won the Open since Nick Faldo in 1992, who recorded the 32nd instance of English victory at this oldest of majors.
Lowry was seeking to join Fred Daly (1947), Padraig Harrington (2007, 08), Darren Clarke (2011) and Rory McIlroy (2014) on the Irish honour roll of Open Champions. The conditions – cold, rain and wind – combined to create as miserable a canvas as possible for the final round of the Open Championship.
The lead was down to three after the first hole, but it did not stay there for very long. Lowry steadied his hand and raced clear with a burst of birdies. He made three in four holes from the fourth even as Fleetwood was working extra hard to stay on his overnight number of 12.
The cross winds were making it tough for either man to remain on the straight and narrow, but the duo were doing a fabulous job of mitigating the situation by keeping their cards from any extensive damage. Lowry conceded a pair of bogeys ahead of the bend and Fleetwood paid his dues at the eighth hole. After all the drama, Lowry was 16-under with Fleetwood slipping farther back at 11-under.
Another bogey at the tenth from the 28-year-old former European Champion meant that Lowry’s cushion was restored to six with only eight holes remaining to play.
Meanwhile, the chasing group was grounded firmly in the distance by a combination of course conditions and the mental fatigue that was all too evident in the quality of their golf. Even the normally unflappable Brooks Koepka was struggling to stand firm, conceding four straight bogeys at the start of his round.
Robert MacIntyre and Tyrrell Hatton had all their work done upfront, sitting quietly on the leaderboard at 5-under They were watching their colleagues go above and beneath them from the comforts of the clubhouse. There was nothing fancy about Patrick Reed this week, but three 71s and a 67 helped him up the order. He left the final round as he came in, at 4-under.
Amidst the severely testing conditions, Tony Finau showed he had the game for the biggest stages in golf, eking out a precious 71 to secure a third place finish. Lee Westwood was one behind him in fourth at 6-under 278.
But the day belonged Shane Lowry. The Irishman kept his card together on a difficult day to coast home to a comfortable six stroke victory over Fleetwood. He finished the week at 15-under 269 with Fleetwood second at 275 and Finau at 277.
Lee Westwood and Brooks Koepka tied in fourth at 278. There were four me in T6 – Robert MacIntyre, Tyrrell Hatton, Danny Willett and Rickie Fowler at 279. Patrick Reed finished in tenth at 280.