• Champion Lowry the toast of Ireland

    Shane Lowry
    The people's champion

    Shane Lowry shrugged off bad memories and bad beats to win his first Major as he prevailed in demanding Sunday conditions at Royal Portrush.

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    The favourite – his scintillating third round 63 that left him four ahead and Irish blood – was crowned the Champion Golfer of the Year after bravely fending off the elements.

    Saturday’s round left him staring down victory and redemption after he squandered a four-shot lead at the 2016 US Open. And to win on Sunday all he had to do was survive the first few holes as heavy wind and rain lashed down and sent the chasing field into hiding.

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    Brooks Koepka bogeyed the first four holes. Rickie Fowler doubled the opening hole as did JB Holmes. Justin Rose was five over through the front nine. Lee Westwood was -2 through 10 before rattling off three straight bogeys. Name a player in the field few groupings and there’s a sob story to be told. No player in the last 10 groups were under par.

    In short, the weather and demanding course left one, Tommy Fleetwood, possible villain to the story. And the drama played out in the first few holes as the Englishman set up a makeable birdie putt on the first hole. The leader was in trouble. He was until he calmly rolled in his bogey putt and watched Fleetwood’s attempt slide by.

    Lowry fistpumped his five. Fleetwood attempted to shrug if off.

    Fleetwood then missed further short-range chances on 2 (for birdie), 3 (for par) and 4 (for birdie). The Northern Ireland crowd sensed Lowry would prevail when he made par on the second and third holes. A birdie at four and an up and down birdie at the fifth to match Fleetwood was arguably the end of the threat.

    The poor weather rolled in and left any miracle round by Fleetwood all but impossible. It was up to Lowry to survive and he did that with a birdie on the seventh helping keep him well in front even despite three bogeys in his next four holes.

    Fleetwood had two drops of his own in that spell and when he made double on the 14th, it was time to get the engraver to the Claret Jug.

    Lowry, winner in Abu Dhabi earlier this year, is famous in these parts. Few, if any, can’t recall his Irish Open win, as an amateur, in 2009 at County Louth Golf Club as a fresh-faced 22-year-old.

    It was the Major he was born to play. And destined to win. Nothing would stand in his way.

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