Ireland’s Shane Lowry exorcised the ghosts of Oakmont to claim his first major title in commanding fashion in the 148th Open at Royal Portrush.
Roared on by a sell-out crowd undeterred by the miserable conditions, Lowry carded a closing 72 to become the fifth Irish player to lift the Claret Jug after Fred Daly, Padraig Harrington, Darren Clarke and Rory McIlroy.
The 32-year-old from Offaly finished 15 under par, six shots ahead of England’s Tommy Fleetwood, with American Tony Finau two strokes further back in third.
World number one Brooks Koepka, who was attempting to become the first player in the modern era to finish in the top two in all four majors in a calendar year, had to settle for a share of fourth with Lee Westwood, a result which secured the 46-year-old a first Masters appearance since 2017 next April.
Three years after failing to convert a four-shot lead in the final round of the US Open at Oakmont, Lowry took the same advantage into the last day of the first Open staged outside Scotland or England since Max Faulkner triumphed at Portrush in 1951.
Looking understandably nervous, Lowry pulled his opening tee shot and looked on anxiously as his ball headed towards the internal out of bounds which had cost pre-tournament favourite Rory McIlroy so dear on Thursday.
Similarly errant drives had also led to double bogeys for Rickie Fowler and JB Holmes, but Lowry’s ball was poorly struck and plunged into the rough, from where he found a greenside bunker with his approach.
Fleetwood had found the fairway off the tee and hit a superb second shot to six feet, but missed his birdie attempt and, after a mediocre bunker shot and timid putt, Lowry held his nerve to hole from five feet for just his fourth bogey of the week.
The lead was back to four shots when Fleetwood, who also missed a good birdie chance on the par-five second, bogeyed the third and Lowry moved further clear with a birdie on the fourth which was greeted with a massive cheer from the crowd.
Both players birdied the short fifth before Lowry demonstrated the short-game skills honed in chipping competitions against Harrington by getting up and down from short of the seventh green to pick up another shot.
Lowry, who won the 2009 Irish Open as an amateur in similarly poor weather, looked in total control before a combination of three bogeys in the next four holes and Fleetwood’s birdie on the 12th cut the gap to four.
However, Fleetwood could not turn the screw and double bogeyed the 14th after finding sand off the tee, meaning Lowry increased his lead to five despite failing to save par from over the green.
Lowry, who sacked his caddie after the first round of last year’s Open and missed the cut for the fourth year in succession, had the title in his grasp and a birdie on the 15th had chants of “Ole, Ole, Ole” ringing out around the Dunluce Links.
It also meant Lowry’s name was etched on the Claret Jug by the time he stepped on to the 18th tee and a regulation par sealed an emphatic triumph, Lowry hugging his caddie Brian ‘Bo’ Martin before being embraced by wife Wendy and two-year-old daughter Iris.
Provided by Press Association Sports
Nine-time major champion Gary Player has hailed Jordan Spieth as the best putter he’s ever seen after the 23-year-old captured the Open Championship on Sunday.
Spieth put on a putting show late in the fourth round to recover from a shot behind after his fifth bogey of the day on the 13th, which involved a 20-minute ruling and playing his third shot from Royal Birkdale’s practice ground.
Player, a three-time Open winner, was full of praise for the young Texan, who joins Jack Nicklaus as the only players to win three majors before the age of 24.
“We are tired of hearing commentators and parents and friends saying my son or this pro is a superstar in the future because he hits it so far. The putter is the master. The power of the putter, and he’s the best putter, maybe, and I’m reluctant to say, maybe the best putter that I’ve ever seen,” said Player.
Watch the South African’s reaction to Spieth’s triumph in the video below.
Jordan Spieth will learn from his Masters collapse as well as his major triumphs as he tries to secure the third leg of the career grand slam in the Open Championship.
A second bogey-free 65 of the week means Spieth will take a three-shot lead over Matt Kuchar into Sunday’s final round at Royal Birkdale, with US Open champion Brooks Koepka three shots further back alongside 20-year-old Canadian Austin Connelly.
Victory on Sunday would make Spieth only the second player after Jack Nicklaus to have won three of the game’s four majors before the age of 24 and he could then surpass Tiger Woods as the youngest player to complete a career grand slam in next month’s US PGA at Quail Hollow.
However, the 23-year-old American is well aware that memories of his collapse in the final round of the 2016 Masters, where he blew a five-shot lead with nine holes to play, remain fresh in the memory
“I’ve had a five-shot lead in a major and squandered it before,” said Spieth, who won the Masters and US Open in 2015 and missed out on a play-off for the Open at St Andrews by a single shot.
“I’ve had the high and the humbling so I will keep my head down and not get ahead of myself.
“I think I’m in a position where it can be very advantageous, just everything I’ve gone through, the good, the bad and everything in the middle. I understand that leads can be squandered quickly, and I also understand how you can keep on rolling on one.
“It was a humbling experience that I thought at the time could serve me well going forward. And if I don’t win tomorrow, it has nothing to do with that. It has to do with it was someone else’s day, and I didn’t play as well as I should have.
“And if I win tomorrow it has nothing to do with that, either. You’re learning and it all goes into the mental process.
“Tomorrow will be a day that will be emotionally draining and difficult to stay very neutral in the head, but that’s probably the most important thing for me to do.”
Provided by Press Association