Ryan Fox left Royal Portrush with his own slice of Open Championship history but the 148th hosting will be forever remembered as the Major confirmation of Irishman Shane Lowry.
Ten years after claiming the Irish Open as an exuberant amateur, Lowry again had the home crowd in raptures only this time for the 36 holes of The Open’s finale, using a Saturday 63 to take a five-shot cushion into the final round.
With the massive galleries full of hopeful expectation Lowry began his final 18 holes with a nervous tee shot down the left of the first hole but a bogey putt from some eight feet went a long way to settling his nerves.
A four-shot leader through 54 holes of the 2016 US Open, Lowry was 2-under through seven holes as he extended his advantage to six shots at Royal Portrush and played outstanding links golf in challenging conditions to shoot a 1-over 72 for a six-shot win over Tommy Fleetwood with American Tony Finau a shot further back in third position.
With fellow Irish Major winners Graeme McDowell and Padraig Harrington waiting by the 18th green to welcome the newest member of an exclusive club, Lowry’s reception on his walk up the final fairway will forever retain a special place in Open folklore.
"I hit my tee shot on 18, that was it, and I started to enjoy it then,” Lowry said.
“It was just incredible to walk down 18. The crowd was going wild. I tried to soak it in as much as I could.
"I didn't even know going out this morning if I was good enough to win a Major. And look, I'm here now, a Major Champion.
“I can't believe I'm saying it, to be honest."
Fox and Cameron Smith were the only two Australasian players to qualify for the weekend with Fox recording one of the best rounds in atrocious conditions to register his best finish in a major championship, a tie for 16th.
Beginning the final round in a tie for 43rd, Fox was 3-under and bogey-free through 12 holes, dropped shots at 13 and 16 softened somewhat by a birdie at 17.
In what has been an otherwise difficult year since his win at the ISPS HANDA World Super 6 Perth in February, Fox wrote his name into The Open record books when he shot a back-9 of 29 in the opening round, the first player to go sub-30 for nine holes in Open history.
Buoyed by an encouraging performance at the Rocket Mortgage Classic last month, Smith shot to near the top of the leaderboard with a second round of 66 and sat just outside the top-10 prior to the final round.
Three bogeys and a birdie at the par-4 5th saw the Queenslander make the turn in 2-over but as the conditions worsened so too did the scoring, Smith making three straight bogeys from the 15th hole to finish in a tie for 20th.
“That was probably something I haven’t experienced for a while,” Smith said. “It was just brutal.
“It seemed like you couldn’t control your ball no matter how good a strike you had or how good you thought your read was. It was just everywhere.
“It would have been nice to hole a few more putts throughout the week and be right up there, but it is what it is.”
|148th Open Championship|
|Royal Portrush Golf Club, Portrush, Northern Ireland|
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