What an extraordinary week it was at the Open Championship.
The first time back in Northern Ireland for 68 years, remarkably good weather for much of it, an out-of-this-world course at Royal Portrush and, in Shane Lowry, an Irishman winning the Claret Jug – and winning it well. You couldn’t have scripted it any better.
For Lowry, nothing will ever be able to top this triumph. If he goes on to win 10 Masters or 10 US Open titles none of them could feel any greater than this one. I was commentating on it and by the end of it I couldn’t speak; I was too emotional.
Read more: How Shane Lowry won The Open
Lowry pulled away with a stunning round of 63 on Saturday, which is the hardest day as a lot can go wrong. Only one man – Branden Grace at The Open in 2017 – has ever recorded a lower round at any of the Majors, so for Lowry to do so in these circumstances was amazing.
His playing partner JB Holmes acknowledged as much when they stepped off the 18th green after their third rounds. The American said that, while his game hadn’t been where he wanted it to be, it had been an honour and a privilege to accompany Lowry as he set a new course record.
Tommy Fleetwood was magnificent all week in finishing second but a huge turning point came on the first green on Sunday.
The Englishman missed a putt for birdie and Lowry holed his for a bogey, meaning that his four-hole overnight lead was only cut to three rather than one.
That was a very early bubble-burster for Fleetwood and nothing much went for him after that. Lowry’s run of three birdies in four holes from the fourth was exceptional and put him firmly in control. Soon he was nine shots clear of third and six ahead of his nearest rival.
Still, it is such a severe course that one wayward tee shot can lead to a seven or an eight. Lowry’s caddie, Northern Irishman Bo Martin, did a great job of helping him to hold it together.
Lowry has known what it’s like to win huge events since stealing the show at the 2009 Irish Open when still an amateur.
In 2015 he won the WGC Bridgestone Invitational, a humungous tournament. It was a big step but then he endured a bit of a lull.
I think splitting his time between the European and PGA Tours didn’t help. Now he’s a Major champion and orders of merit are less important, that’s easier.
His life has changed. He has shown what he is capable of, reached another level, made history and hit the jackpot.
Royal Portrush itself was outstanding, with the best greens in terms of shape and condition that I have seen on any links.
They were all very fair, and you rarely saw a player get into trouble with a good shot. The crowds, too, were extraordinary and very well behaved.
Fleetwood aside, there were some great performances from the Brits, including 46-year-old Lee Westwood to finish fourth. That gets him into the Masters next year.
Young Scotsman Bob MacIntyre shared sixth in his first Open alongside English pair Danny Willett and Tyrrell Hatton.
Portrush was awash with great tales but the Claret Jug went to the best man, the right man, and Lowry’s story totally overshadowed all the others.
Main image credit: Getty