Shane Lowry weathers the storm to win The Open at Royal Portrush

The 32-year-old held his nerve brilliantly to claim a maiden Major title in style on the County Antrim links.

IF YESTERDAY WAS one of Shane Lowry’s greatest days on a golf course, God knows where this one will rank as the Irishman joined an illustrious group of champion golfers by winning The Open at Royal Portrush.

In front of thousands of home supporters on the County Antrim links, Lowry weathered a wild Sunday afternoon storm to claim the Claret Jug and win his maiden Major title by an extraordinary margin of six shots.

The Open Championship 2019 - Day Four - Royal Portrush Golf Club Lowry is a Major winner. Source: PA Wire/PA Images

Lowry, who showed nerves of steel throughout the final round to hold off nearest challenger Tommy Fleetwood and power his way towards Open glory, follows in the footsteps of Rory McIlroy, Darren Clarke, Pádraig Harrington and Fred Daly as past champions from the island of Ireland.

Holding a four-shot lead at the start of the day, Lowry rebounded from an opening bogey to stay in control of his destiny throughout, producing his Sunday best to battle the elements and everything Fleetwood could throw at him.

Lowry closed his week with a one-over-par round of 72, finishing on 15-under and six ahead of second-placed Fleetwood and eight clear of Tony Finau in third.

The scenes on the final hole, as Lowry made his way up to the 18th green with his arms aloft, will forever live long in the memory of the 32-year-old, who has enjoyed a life-changing week on Irish soil.

Fleetwood, who started four back on Sunday, could not get going with the putter despite some a series of birdie chances early in his round and the Englishman struggled to a 74 that left him six behind the champion.

Lowry had reached a low point 12 months ago at the same tournament at Carnoustie, where he missed the cut — for the fourth Open in succession — and slipped to 92nd in the world rankings.

Yet this victory was just reward for four days of sublime golf played with the backing of a vociferous crowd desperate for an Irish winner on such a historic week. 

It marks a crowning moment in Lowry’s career three years on from him letting a four-shot lead slip in the final round of the US Open at Oakmont.

His success owed much to a fantastic eight-under 63 on Saturday when the glorious conditions were in stark contrast to the heavy downpours and high winds that greeted the leaders the following day.

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Shane Lowry Lowry maintained his composure superbly. Source: Matt Mackey/INPHO

The landscape of the leaderboard could have been markedly different after the first hole, when Lowry followed a nervy tee shot that landed in the left rough with an approach into the greenside bunker, while Fleetwood put his approach to within 10 feet.

Lowry limited the damage, though, recovering to make bogey as his nearest rival missed a presentable birdie chance. An increasingly assured Lowry duly extended his lead with a run of three birdies in four holes to reach 18-under through seven and, even when the weather worsened to make scoring difficult, his lead never really came under threat thereafter.

Three dropped shots between the eighth and 11th did little damage, with Fleetwood also dropping shots in the damp conditions.

A birdie at 12 brought Fleetwood within four, but a double-bogey six at 14 killed any hope of a comeback and another birdie for Lowry at 15 brought huge cheers.

The chasing pack below Lowry and Fleetwood only fleetingly threatened any sort of charge, with Lee Westwood the only man bar the leaders to reach 10-under at any stage on Sunday.

Westwood ultimately finished in a tie for fourth with world number one Brooks Koepka at six-under, with Tony Finau one shot better off in third after a level-par 71.

Last year’s Open champion, Francesco Molinari, carded a 66 before the poor weather arrived to share 11th at three-under, but this was all about one man.

Shane Lowry is a Major winner amid truly special scenes at Royal Portrush.

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Ryan Bailey

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