Irishman Shane Lowry won the 2019 Open Golf Championship at Royal Portrush by 6 shots from Tommy Fleetwood in an amazing and emotional tournament, with the packed galleries cheering home one of their own in scenes that will live long in the memory.
Lowry (above) lead from the front, displaying all the skill and tenacity needed to tame the Royal Portrush Links – succeeding where many others failed, and holding off some of the biggest names in the game to claim his first Major title.
The turning point really came in Round 3 – where Lowry blitzed the back nine in just 30 strokes and shot a course record 63 to grasp the tournament by the scruff of the neck and take a four shot lead into the final round over Fleetwood – a lead neither Fleetwood or the chasing pack could truly eat into to pressure the affable Irishman, with the weather helping the course to bare its teeth and it play at its most testing in the final round.
It was a superb tournament from the moment that Darren Clarke hit the first shot early on Thursday morning until Lowry tapped home for par on the 18th on Sunday evening. On a beautifully prepared course, the galleries caused an atmosphere virtually unrivalled at previous Open Championships – and were treated to golfing drama of the highest order.
Local hero Rory McIlroy was the name on many people’s lips to do what Lowry eventually achieved – but his tournament started horrifically with an opening hole 8 to take him to +4 after the first. He would end Round 1 on +8, but then showed all his class to storm back in Round 2 to shoot a 65 – but he would miss the cut, much to the locals dismay, by a shot – ruing a three putt from 5 feet on Thursday that turned out to be pivotal.
For much of the tournament, Brooks Koepka (above) seemed to be stalking Lowry and fellow American J B Holmes, waiting to make his move for possibly a third Major of the season, having finished second in the Masters. Koepka was almost robot like as he manoeuvred his way around the Links through 54 holes, finishing on -9 with just four dropped shots en route. But he showed on the Sunday he was human – bogeying the first four holes to drop from contention – although he would recover to still tie for fourth overall with veteran Englishman Lee Westwood. Koepka’s finish meaning he became just the fifth player in golfing history to make the top 4 in all the Majors in one season.
J B Holmes had, along with Lowry, been leading the field for a lot of the tournament and was in with a shout going into Round 4 – but he suffered a horror show as the weather kicked in – a final round 87 dropping him from 3rd to tied 67th in 18 disastrous holes.
Tommy Fleetwood (above), tipped by Sportsweek.co.uk to follow for this tournament, enjoyed a superb tournament and showed, again, that he has the game and temperament to truly be considered as one of the worlds elite – a Major is surely not far away for the Englishman who flirted with the lead, but couldn’t establish himself atop the Leaderboard as Lowry did, and in the final round just couldn’t haul the Irishman in. But his second Major runners up place and another improved showing in the Open a fine reward for his uber consistent game.
But this event belonged to the Irish in so many ways – and Shane Lowry was a fitting winner. His course management was second to none, and the way he plotted and crafted his way around the Links was a delight to see. Lowry is everything that embodies the Irish. A smile rarely far from his face, a quiet, unassuming and humble personality – and someone who interacts with all around him enhancing their own experience of a great sporting event. His march onto the 18th green on Sunday evening was one that will live long in the memory for anyone who observed it. Delight etched onto Lowry’s face, with the crowd cheering and clapping wildly, his family in attendance – if Tiger Woods victorious return at Augusta earlier this year was inspirational and emotional, this had every ounce the same sentiment attached to it – and it, arguably, meant more to many more people. It will have been some celebration afterwards – totally deserving for such a fine Champion.
It had been 68 years since Royal Portrush had held the Open Golf Championship – with everything about the event lauded by players, pundits and supporters alike, you can only feel it wont be anything like that wait before it is held there again.
2019 OPEN GOLF CHAMPIONSHIP – FINAL LEADERBOARD
- Shane LOWRY (Ireland) : 67-67-63-72 : -15
- Tommy FLEETWOOD (England) : 68-67-66-74 : -9
- Tony FINAU (USA) : 68-70-68-71 : -7
- Brooks KOEPKA (USA) : 68-69-67-74 : -6
- Lee WESTWOOD (England) : 68-67-70-73 : -6
- Robert MCINTYRE (Scotland) : 68-72-71-68 : -5
- Tyrrell HATTON (England) : 68-71-71-69 : -5
- Danny WILLETT (England) : 74-67-65-73 : -5
- Rickie FOWLER (USA) : 70-69-66-74 : -5
- Patrick REED (USA) : 71-67-71-74 : -4
Course : Royal Portrush Golf Club, County Antrim, Northern Ireland
Date : July 18-21, 2019