A glorious win for the whole of Ireland
Jon Woodroffe reflects on a wonderful victory for Shane Lowry at this year’s British Open at Royal Portrush
What a glorious victory at Royal Portrush this weekend and a worthy and very popular winner in Shane Lowry. I can only imagine how good the craic was Sunday evening.
The first playing of the great championship on the Northern Irish links since 1951 showcased all that is good about both the sport and the people of the Emerald Isle. Bumper crowds and ticket sold out in record time showed the interest in The British Open coming to this beautifully presented, challenging golf course. Minor adjustments were made to the course, prior to the event, to enhance the amazing scenery and layout and although the weather was kind for most of the week, the sting in the tale of the wind and the rain on the final round was what we all wanted to see. It sorted the men from the boys as they say.
So, to the champion and although all the pre tournament hype was aimed at an Irish winner, very few people predicted which local Islander would walk off with The Claret Jug. Rory Mcllroy was the bookies and many romanticists choice, but that ship sailed from the first tee on Friday with an out of bounds with the very first strike of the ball, The final hole triple bogey confirmed that there was no way back. Tiger Woods similarly never got out of second gear, so it was looking like either another win for the Major Man Brooks Koepka or maybe a new winner was waiting in the wings.
Saturday was the day this championship was won. A course record 63 from Shane Lowry, cheered every step of the way by the suitable partisan crowd, was one of the best rounds of golf I have ever witnessed. Admittedly the wind dropped and the course was there for the taking, but it still needed taking and Shane was the man for the moment. Having missed the last 4 Open cuts, including last year’s Carnoustie event leading to a tearful exit from the car park, there wasn’t much expectation on Shane. This may well have helped him get into a winning position, but having lost a 4 shot lead in the last round of a major 3 years ago and the memory of that still in the back of the mind, he drew on the energy and goodwill of the crowd and conquered any lingering demons. Victory by a healthy 6 shot margin was impressive to say the least.
On the final round nobody could get close to him, the weather and the difficulty of the course aided him there, but still he was the only player in the final groups, alongside Tony Finau, who was even close to matching the par of the course. Try though they may, all the big guns kept misfiring and even Tommy Fleetwood, a great exponent of links golf, couldn’t get within striking distance of the amiable Irishman. As sport has a habit of doing, the Island of Ireland was brought together as one, no borders, no backstop issues, just one golfing union and one common purpose: to allow the sport to bring pleasure to the participants and the spectators alike. In that, it succeeded gloriously. So, onto the next Open at Sandwich in Kent, comparatively round the corner from here and I hope many of you, like me will be making a bee line for the championship to see some quality golf and some astounding skills on the links next July.