|The 148th Open Championship – final-round leaderboard|
|-15 S Lowry (Ire); -9 T Fleetwood (Eng); -7 T Finau (US); -6 L Westwood (Eng), B Koepka (US); -5 R MacIntyre (Sco), T Hatton (Eng), D Willett (Eng), R Fowler (US); -4 P Reed (US)|
|Selected others: -3 F Molinari (Ita), T Lewis (Eng), J Thomas (US), J Rahm (Spa); -1 L Oosthuizen (SA), M Fitzpatrick (Eng), J Spieth (US), J Rose (Eng); +2 R Knox (Sco), M Kuchar (US); +3 B Watson (US); +4 P Casey (Eng), G McDowell (NI); +5 J Furyk (US); +6 JB Holmes (US)|
Ireland’s Shane Lowry claimed a first major championship win with a dominant six-shot victory on 15 under par amid raucous scenes at The Open.
Lowry started the celebrations early, his arms aloft as he squeezed through the crowds who swarmed the 18th fairway at Northern Ireland’s Royal Portrush.
“This feels like an out-of-body experience,” said the 32-year-old.
Lowry held his nerve in the wind and rain to shoot a one-over 72, with Tommy Fleetwood second on nine under.
England’s Fleetwood briefly threatened but a double bogey on the 14th effectively ended his challenge as he finished with a three-over 74.
“I can’t wait to wake up on Monday morning and find out what it’s going to feel like then. It’s just going to be incredible,” added Lowry who was mobbed before he reached the green on the last hole.
Thousands of partisan fans lined the 18th to cheer Lowry’s victory procession and as he turned to embrace his caddie Brian ‘Bo’ Martin after hitting his second shot to the green, hundreds flooded the fairway ahead of him.
Lowry and Martin were shepherded through the crowds and under a rope by marshals to allow them safe passage.
There will also have been a sense of redemption for Lowry following his final-round capitulation at the US Open three years ago when, like on Sunday, he started with a four shot lead but a 76 saw him fall away as Dustin Johnson won.
American Tony Finau carded a one-over-par 71 to end third on seven under, his best finish at a major.
An up-and-down round for England’s Lee Westwood saw him card a two-over 73 for a share of fourth that guarantees him a place at next year’s Masters. He finished six under overall alongside world number one Brooks Koepka who struggled to a 74.
Lowry writes himself into Irish folklore
There was little doubt about the who the vast majority of the fans were behind from the first moment until the last, with huge cheers greeting Lowry’s name when it was read out over the speakers as he arrived at the first tee.
He had looked calm while out on the practice green but nerves appeared to take their hold when he tugged his opening tee shot into the rough before hitting his second into a greenside bunker.
Lowry escaped with a bogey but the nerves were there for Fleetwood too as he missed a birdie putt that would have cut the lead to two.
The 28-year-old, bidding to become the first Englishman to win the open since Nick Faldo in 1992, then over-hit his par putt on the third and the bogey meant Lowry’s advantage was four once again.
That seemed to give Lowry the confidence boost he needed and he holed two successive birdie putts from the fourth. Heavy rain and wind arrived soon after and Lowry, battling both the elements and nerves, struggled after the turn, bogeying four of the five holes from the ninth.
From then on it was about digging in and not giving Fleetwood the glimmer of hope of taking it down to the wire. Lowry holed a couple of crucial par putts before celebrating a birdie on the 15th with a big fist pump. It was a putt that appeared to signal the moment Fleetwood’s fleeting hopes of staging a comeback were ended.
Lowry’s name was already being engraved on the Claret Jug as he approached the 18th green as he soaked up the adulation from the thousands gathered to witness the biggest win of his career.
Westwood’s wait goes on
Westwood, runner up at 2010 The Open, will have arrived at Portrush on Sunday quietly confident of mounting a challenge as he looked to break his major duck.
The 46-year-old Englishman made a poor start with a bogey on the first but recovered with three birdies over his next four holes.
However, every time he looked like threatening the leading pair, the chance to close the gap passed him by. He left a birdie putt hanging on the edge of the seventh hole before missing another opportunity on the eighth.
His challenge effectively ended around the turn with bogeys on the ninth, 11th and 12th and he finished six under overall after carding a two-over 73.
Westwood’s compatriot Justin Rose had an even tougher day. He shanked a shot almost sideways in the midst of the heavy rain while on the ninth and did not pick up a birdie until the 12th hole. But three bogeys in his last six holes saw him return to the clubhouse with an eight-over 79 to end one under.
In contrast, Scotland’s Bob MacIntyre and England’s Tyrrell Hatton were the only two golfers who finished in the top six to fire under-par rounds on Sunday.
Much of that will be down to their earlier start time and missing the stormy weather. MacIntyre, making his major debut, hit a three-under-par 68 while Hatton finished on two under.
They shared sixth place alongside England’s Danny Willett (73) and American Rickie Fowler (74).
Back-to-back titles never on for Molinari
Francesco Molinari, the 2018 winner, never really got his defence going, although he did finish on a high by shooting the best round of the day.
The Italian, who won by two shots at Carnoustie last year, shot a five-under 66, which included an eagle on the 12th.
Asked if he had enjoyed his week as defending champion, Molinari, who had opened with a three-over 74 in round one, said: “I can’t lie – some bits of it yes, some bits of it no.
“But I was not managing my expectations well enough unfortunately. On Sunday I was playing more freely, just enjoying the support from the crowd.”
A day to forget for Holmes
The parties in Portrush will go long into the night, but one person who will not be in the mood for any celebrations any time soon is JB Holmes.
The American led at the halfway stage of the tournament and was third on 10 under at the start of the final day, primed to challenge for the victory.
However, he endured a horror round that included six bogeys, four double bogeys and one triple bogey, finishing 16 over for the day and six over for the tournament.