No luck of the Irish, it was all dominance. In the first Open on the island in over a half-century, an Irishman will take the Claret Jug will likely raise more than one pint out of the famous trophy tonight. Shane Lowry is your newest major winner, and the 2019 Open champion.
For most of Sunday, we got what you get when a player is head and shoulders above the rest of the field — a completely uncompetitive and relatively boring laugher of a Sunday. Real highlights or jump-out-at-you moments are hard to pinpoint.
Lowry started with a bit of a blink on the opening hole, and that might have been the last moment there was any doubt who’d take home the Claret Jug. Shortly after Rickie Fowler and JB Holmes hit their first shots of the day out of bounds, Lowry hit a nervy opening tee ball of his own — a quick low hooking rocket that settled just short of the white stakes on the left-hand side of the first. That led to an opening bogey, and a par from Tommy Fleetwood put him within three of Lowry’s lead. At that very moment, it seemed like we might be headed for a competitive final round.
Then two things happened: the weather rolled in and the field around Lowry cratered. With heavy rains rolling in and out, the list of names that might have an outside shot to run down Lowry and apply pressure collapsed. Brooks Koepka opened with four consecutive bogeys. Rickie Fowler opened with a double bogey that ended his chances. JB Holmes, who started the day in third, shot a front-side 41 en route to posting 87 (!!) on the day. At any point that Lowry seemed to get sideways for a half-second, two more competitors had ejected completely. It made for a mostly boring day of golf — despite the fantastic crowds and scenes that Portrush and the people of Northern Ireland delivered all day.
Still, that laugher of a final round might have been worth it for the finishing celebration. Lowry had the Northern Ireland crowds behind him all day, rallying and cheering for the Irishman from the southern part of the isle. Guinness-powered throngs were in full throat behind him all weekend, and the absurd scene at the 18th gave scenes of Tiger’s charge up the 18th at East Lake from last fall.
There are plenty of storylines here you can latch onto. There is, of course, the obvious theme of an Irishman winning the first Open on the island since the R&A left the in the 1960s. I’m frankly not qualified to speak on what any of this does or doesn’t mean and oversimplify a highly complicated history into a sporting storyline, but it’s clear it meant something to Lowry and the crowd on this Sunday. After the round, he told of golf’s power to unite Ireland and the love that he felt from the Northern crowd. You’re going to get several pieces on all that, and what it means for the sport, and what it means for the two countries in the coming days — and that’s fine. It’s a storyline that’s hard to ignore.
But, that shouldn’t downplay the implications from Lowry himself. It’s a big turn for his career overall, who’s going to vault his name into the conversation among the top-tier players in the world now. This is a guy now with a nice set of wins to his name — the Irish Open, a WGC, a premier Euro Tour event in the middle east, and now a Claret Jug. He places himself instantly into the conversation for the 2020 Ryder Cup for Europe. This won’t be the end of Shane Lowry. He’s a top-end talent now with the confidence and validation of a major championship — and should now be one of the guys we talk about coming into future majors. He’s also the kind of character that golf does not have enough of so a win that puts him in the spotlight is only good for the sport and those who watch it.
But for now, it’s time for a pint. And another pint. And another pint. Pray for your bartender across the Irish isle this evening.