PORTRUSH, Northern Ireland (Reuters) - Shane Lowry described his British Open win on Sunday as like an “out of body experience” and for once the cliché of victory being “unbelievable” appeared utterly sincere.
As his closest opponent, England’s Tommy Fleetwood, put it, Lowry had “controlled” the final round at Royal Portrush and he did so despite the pressure, the wild weather and his own history.
Three years ago, he had blown a four stroke lead in the final round of the U.S. Open at Oakmont but if that memory haunted him, he showed no signs of it, with his controlled and efficient one-over final round of 72, securing a six-stroke win over Fleetwood.
“I had to fight to the bitter end today, and that’s what helped me — that’s where I struggled in Oakmont,” said Lowry.
“I always said after Oakmont, if I could have got the last four holes back, I’d give anything to be standing on the 14th fairway again.
“So I knew today that I was going to have to fight to the very end, and I did.”
If Oakmont seems a long time ago, even more recent traumas can now be packed away in the box labelled ‘learning experience’.
At last year’s Open Championship at Carnoustie, Lowry shot an awful 74, fired his caddy on the spot and then missed the cut.
“I sat in the car park in Carnoustie on Thursday, almost a year ago right to this week and I cried. Golf wasn’t my friend at the time, it was something that become very stressful and it was weighing on me and I just didn’t like doing it. And, look, what a difference a year makes, I suppose,” he said.
“But that just shows how fickle golf is. Golf is a weird sport and you never know what’s around the corner. That’s why you need to remind yourself, and you need other people there to remind you. You need to fight through the bad times.”
The burly, bearded Irishman has clearly been gifted with a talent for the sport and with an engaging personality that won over all who witnessed him at Portrush — none more so than the fans who raced on to the fairways and rushed to the galleries to share his moment of glory.
But one suspects he hasn’t always been blessed with the self-belief that some in golf are fortunate to possess.
“I didn’t even know going out this morning if I was good enough to win a major. I knew I was able to put a few days together. I knew I was able to play the golf course. I just went out there and tried to give my best. And look, I’m here now, a major champion. I can’t believe I’m saying it, to be honest,” he said.
“I think the people around me really believed that I could, which helped me an awful lot. So I suppose when the people around you really believe in you, it helps you an awful lot.”
Lowry was careful to avoid getting entangled in some of the grand narratives about Irish history and identity that always run the risk of upsetting or alienating someone.
But when it comes to the history of Irish golf, Lowry now has his place among the greats and he takes his place alongside fellow Open winner and countryman Padraig Harrington.
“I’m Irish. I grew up holing putts back home to win The Open. It was always The Open, wasn’t it? I watched Paddy win his two Opens,” he said.
“To have him there on the 18th... like you go into Paddy’s house and the Claret Jug is sitting on the kitchen table, and I’m going to have one on my kitchen table, as well. I said that to him, as well, that’s going to be quite nice.”
Reporting by Simon Evans; Editing by Christian Radnedge