Portrush, United Kingdom: Ireland’s Shane Lowry withstood howling wind and rain to win his first major at the British Open by six shots from Tommy Fleetwood on Sunday.
In desperately difficult conditions, Lowry’s one-over par final round was still more than enough as he finished on 15-under for the tournament to claim the Claret Jug.
Fleetwood could never apply enough pressure as Lowry never had less than a three-shot lead throughout his round and a double bogey at the 14th realistically ended the Englishman’s challenge as he finished three-over for the day on nine-under.
Roared on by huge crowds despite the inclement weather at Royal Portrush, Lowry had a nervy start as he bogeyed the opening hole.
However, he looked set to romp to victory after making three birdies in four holes between four and seven to move to 18-under.
Strengthening winds and lashing rain halted Lowry’s charge towards the finish line as dropped shots at eight, nine and 11 to give Fleetwood hope.
However, the world No. 20 was also struggling and when a six at the par-four 14 for Fleetwood was followed by Lowry’s birdie at 15 there was only one winner.
Lowry could even afford the luxury of revelling in a career-defining win as he headed down the 18th to the delight of the home fans in the first Open Championship on Northern Irish soil since 1951.
Neither of the final pair were ever under any pressure from the chasing pack as they dropped back further back in the rough conditions.
American’s Tony Finau was the only man in the final 10 groups to manage level par for the day and took third place on seven-under.
World No. 1 Brooks Koepka was hoping for the wind to blow Lowry off course, but it was his chances that were washed away early on.
Four consecutive bogeys on the first four holes realistically ended the four-time major winner’s challenge for a first Open Championship.
Koepka battled back with an eagle at the fifth, but dropped shots at 11 and 17 ensured he narrowly missed out on becoming the first man to finish in the top three at all four majors in a calendar year in a tie for fourth alongside Lee Westwood on six-under.
Westwood said it was “brilliant” to book a return to the Masters in 2020 after a two-year absence following his tied-fourth finish.
The English veteran, one of the best players to have never won a Major title, carded a two-over 73 to end six-under for the tournament, nine strokes adrift of Lowry. It was former world No. 1 Westwood’s 12th top-five finish in majors, three of which have come at the Masters, which offers invitations to the top four British Open finishers and ties.
“It would be brilliant. Augusta is a very special place,” he said after his round, while nervously watching the television to see Koepka fail to make an 18th-hole birdie, which would have pushed Westwood down to fifth.
“I played great [there] in the past, I had a chance to win it. Augusta is another one I don’t strictly think it’s a bomber’s [big hitter’s] paradise, although I think it helps.
“If you’ve played it a lot and you play it well, there’s a lot of repeat winners. I feel like I can get it around there. I’ve had a couple of close calls.”
Westwood was runner-up to Phil Mickelson in the 2010 Masters after leading heading into the last round, and also finished tied-second behind Danny Willett in 2016. Scotland’s Bob MacIntyre in his first Open Championship, Englishmen Tyrrell Hatton and Willett and America’s Ricky Fowler finished on five-under for a share of sixth.
Last year’s champion Francesco Molinari took advantage of easier weather conditions to post the round of the day with a 66 to climb up to a tie for 11th on three-under. However, J.B. Holmes, who led at the halfway stage with Lowry, and started the day in third endured a horrendous day as the American shot a 16-over 87 to tumble down to 67th.