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British Open 2019: Shane Lowry wins first major title at Royal Portrush

Shane Lowry
Shane Lowry kisses the Claret Jug after winning the 148th British Open on Sunday at Royal Portrush Golf Club in Northern Ireland.
(Getty Images)

The ending was downright cinematic.

Shane Lowry was British Open champion, a guy who had missed the previous four cuts of the storied tournament and was so distraught about his golf a year ago that he sat in his car with tears running down his face.

An Irishman won his first major championship in Northern Ireland, a place that hadn’t played host to the Open in 68 years — and he did so Sunday in signature nasty weather, with flag-snapping winds and sideways rain. When he made the famous walk up the 18th fairway, with a sea of spectators trailing in his wake and held back by a human chain of blue-coated marshals, the electricity could have powered a city.

And when he walked up to the final green at Royal Portrush Golf Club, thousands of soaked spectators hopped to their feet and cheered. They sang “Ole, Ole, Ole” and some raised full-sized flags of Ireland. They stood, and Lowry delivered by tapping in a par putt to clinch the victory by six strokes over Englishman Tommy Fleetwood.

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“I spotted my family when I walked around the corner [on 18] to have a look where the flag was, and I spotted them all at the back of the green,” Lowry said. “To be honest, I welled up a little bit, and Bo [Martin, his caddie] told me to catch ahold of myself, I still have to hit a shot. Thankfully, I hit a decent shot in there and two-putted.

“I walked down there and I tried to soak it in as much as I could. It was hard to soak it in because it’s very surreal. Especially with, I’m sure there was a lot of the crowd that wanted me to win today.”

That was unmistakable. At every grandstand, people popped to their feet to give him an ovation. They stood, he delivered.

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Martin said it felt surreal.

“We were just laughing, like, how mental is this?” the caddie said, beaming. “These people are crazy. Can you imagine standing in this rain watching us playing golf? There’s no chance I’d be out here; I’d be inside. So fair play to them.”

The weather wreaked havoc, with wind gusts pushing shots wildly off target and flipping umbrellas inside out — that even happened to Lowry — while downpours had people scrambling for shelter.

“I think when we got on eight, nine, 10, just shocking, shocking weather,” said Fleetwood, paired with Lowry for the final round. “It was really, really difficult. I made a par on nine that felt like a birdie.

“It was brutal. That is part of the Open generally, that’s what it’s supposed to be like.”

J.B. Holmes struggled during the final round of the British Open, and his deliberate pre-shot routine didn’t endear him to Brooks Koepka.

A lot of contenders were hoping for foul conditions after the third round, when Lowry built a four-shot lead with a spectacular eight-under 63 on Saturday. Theoretically, weather gave hopefuls a chance.

Rather than unraveling, Lowry was unrattled. A key moment for him came on the opening hole, when he had to make an eight-foot putt for bogey, and Fleetwood had a makeable putt for birdie. Almost all of that four-shot lead could have evaporated on the first hole.

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“There’s a potential three-shot swing,” Lowry said. “He misses, I make, and there’s only one shot. That settled me an awful lot.”

Lowry would shoot one-over 72 on Sunday, leaving him at 15-under 269 for the Open. Fleetwood was at nine under, followed by American Tony Finau at seven under and American Brooks Koepka and Englishman Lee Westwood six under.

According to ESPN, Lowry is just the fourth player in the last 50 years to win his first major by more than five strokes, and the first to do so since Rory McIlroy ran away with the U.S. Open in 2011.

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Lowry knows what it feels like to fumble away a big advantage on a Sunday. Three years ago, he had a four-shot lead heading into the final day of the U.S. Open at Oakmont. He went in reverse with a 76, and Dustin Johnson blew past him to win it all.

Then there was the pressure he felt a year ago in Scotland when, having missed three British Open cuts in a row, he once again got off on the wrong foot.

“I sat in the car park in Carnoustie on Thursday, almost a year ago right to this week, and I cried,” he said. “Golf wasn’t my friend at the time. It was something that become very stressful and it was weighing on me and I just didn’t like doing it. What a difference a year makes, I suppose.”

He attributes that to his own play, but also to the support system around him.

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“Golf is a weird sport and you never know what’s around the corner,” he said. “That’s why you need to remind yourself, and you need other people there to remind you. You need to fight through the bad times.”

On Sunday, in the aftermath of a win of a lifetime, that felt a million miles away.


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