Open Questions About Lowry Answered

Shane Lowry Ran Away with the Open, His First Major

That must have been one difficult Saturday night for Shane Lowry, one of Northern Ireland’s less heralded golfers, but one who has been close, so close. Throwing himself against the wall in majors repeatedly, he broke through in grand fashion to take the 2019 Open by six strokes.  In the first three days, he did pretty much what any golfer could possibly do to get into position for winning this major event.

The throng gathered around the 18th green was one of the better crowds I have seen ready to greet a champion making his way up the last fairway.  He hit a beauty of a drive, splitting the fairway, and a wave of relief swept over Lowry when he maneuvered one last shot to the edge of the green, not close, but safe. Several strokes back was Tommy Fleetwood, also searching for his first major win that is bound to come soon. The talent is too obvious.

Lowry lined up the putt, and I had a premonition that it would go in. The new Open champ nearly made it come true, tapping in for a convincing victory with no cliffhangers to trouble old constitutions like mine. Lowry became the second Northern Irishman to win the Open after Padraig Harrington, as the country’s more heralded stars were nowhere to be seen.

The appearance of this year’s winner was not altogether cool and collected. Lowry admitted to a case of nerves that followed him through the round, but he didn’t let it get into his game, finishing with a credible 72. It must be said that a 72 on Royal Portrush is a lot harder to manage than it is on a lot of other courses. I was terrorized vicariously by those evil drop-offs near the green on the last par 3. A few feet and one could still stand, but much  further and one could hang glide, willingly or not.

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The celebration created even more pandemonium than usual for a major. Somehow, during all the meet and greets, wife Wendy and young daughter were able to make their way in for a quick moment. I was sorry to see them scamper away so quickly under the arch. If there is anyone who has stood by a golfer through all the ups and downs, it is family, and they should be glued to your hip while you accept the accolades. Lowry may not have been responsible for his or anyone else’s actions, though. He seemed in an appropriate fog.

The story for Lowry has been one of either unrealized potential, or by unthinkable loss in the face of victory. In 2016 at Oakmont, he seemed prepared to take the U.S. Open, but somehow let a four-shot lead fade away. Such a near grasp of the brass ring has got to hurt. It doesn’t do much for one’s general confidence, and that pit in the stomach must take a while to go away.

Things didn’t get much better in Britain, as Lowry missed the cut last year. Despondent, he temporarily hit bottom. Many have been in such a place, and the meeting that takes place in the brain about whether to continue is an old story. Fortunately, his better angels won the vote, and Lowry didn’t let this one off the hook.
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Portrush is not like the wide-fairway green giants of other locations. It is stingy, without many holes for picking up ground. The golfer who wins the Open at Portrush displays consistency, or it just doesn’t happen. Regardless of how nervous Lowry might have been, his preparation showed through, and the muscle memory hit a lot of fairways and greens, avoiding the ubiquitous chasms. What he might view as a curse really isn’t and never was, anymore than it is for Fleetwood. The breakthrough is complete for Shane Lowry, and he may just be getting started.

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