The torrential rain didn’t seem to dampen the spirits of those lucky enough to be in attendance at Royal Portrush today, as a sell-out crowd got to witness Ireland’s Shane Lowry lift the Claret Jug. So thanks to the Offaly man’s four days of majestic golf the Claret Jugs first visit to these shores since 1951 will be extended from a single weekend to a whole year.
It was a solid, if unexceptional round of 72, in extremely tough conditions today that saw the Offaly man stride up the final fairway six strokes clear of his nearest challenger and he beamed from ear to ear as the raucous crowd roared him home to the by now customary chants of “Olé, Olé, Olé”.
After yesterday’s sensational round of 63, in bright and calm conditions, gave him a four-shot cushion overnight to protect, today was always going to be more about grinding it out in wet and windy conditions that worsened as the round progressed. At various points during the final round the torrential rain and gale-force winds made the course almost unplayable. He must have endured a somewhat sleepless night prior to this round as memories of the last time he held a four-shot lead into the final day of a major came flooding back. But Oakmont in 2016 has now been consigned to the history books as Lowry held his nerve and got the job done.
Those overnight nerves weren’t helped by a somewhat shaky start as his first drive found the rough. He had to settle for a bogey on the first hole as Fleetwood’s par got him back to within three shots. However, that was a close as the Englishman would come to Lowry’s lead. Par’s on the 2nd & 3rd for the Clara native steadied the ship, before Lowry hit three birdies in four holes to get to -18. However, as conditions deteriorated bogeys followed at the 8th&9th, 11th and 14th. A birdie on the 15th meant that Lowry held a commanding lead and he was in a position to enjoy the final three holes knowing he was about to become the 2019 Open champion.
After a short putt for par on the 18th green, there were emotional scenes as Lowry was congratulated by his caddie Bo Martin, his father Brendan and his wife Wendy and daughter Iris.
— The Open (@TheOpen) July 21, 2019
His playing partner, Tommy Fleetwood, remained the nearest challenger during the final round as the rest of the overnight top ten struggled with the gale force winds on the Antrim coast. The fact that only 15 of the 72 golfers completing today’s final round managed to do so under par goes to show the difficulty of today’s conditions when compared to the previous three days on the Dunluce course. Indeed the majority of those to record below-par rounds today did so earlier this morning when conditions were more favourable.
Last years winner Francesco Molinari, starting just after 9am from +2 recorded the round of the day, a simply amazing -5 given the tough conditions. But it was Lowry that deservedly got the lions share of the attention from the many fans that braved the elements. From his first tee shot just before ten to two this afternoon, until his final putt on the 18th around 6pm, Lowry was like a pied piper leading a snaking gallery of vocal fans around the links course.
— The Open (@TheOpen) July 21, 2019
As Shane Lowry was marching up the 17th with a six-shot lead, in this the 148th Open Championship, the Sky Sports cameras cut to a shot of the Offaly man’s name being engraved on the famous old trophy. His name has now been added to the list of the greats of the game who have previously had the honour of lifting the Claret Jug.
A quick look at the list of the previous winners reads like a hall of fame of golf. From famous old names such as Harry Vardon, Bobby Jones, Walter Hagen, Bobby Locke, Arnold Palmer, Jack Nicklaus & Seve Ballesteros to more recent stars of the game such as Tiger Woods, Ernie Els & Phil Mickelson. He also joins a smaller more select group of his fellow GUI members who have lifted the trophy. Fred Daly was the first to do so at Royal Liverpool in 1947, Pádraig Harrington won back to back in 2007&’08, Darren Clarke at Royal St.George in 2011 and Rory McIlroy once again at Royal Liverpool in 2014 are the only other golfers from this island to win this prestigious piece of silverware.
The Open last visited these shores in 1951, when English golfer Max Faulkner won by three strokes at same County Antrim course. This year’s tournament can be celebrated as a fantastic success story for the organisers as the attendances for the week of 230,000 people is the second-best attended open of all time, only surpassed by the record 237,500 spectators at St.Andrews.
Lowry takes home a copy of the Claret Jug as well as the winners Gold Medal. The original trophy now takes up its permanent residence at the Royal & Ancient’s museum at St.Andrews, but Shane will get to keep the official replica until next years tournament at the Royal St.George course at Sandwich, Kent.