Shane Lowry achieves Open dream, sets sights on Ryder Cup

Victory makes Irish golfer a contender

By Alex Thomas and Rob Hodgetts, CNN
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Open champion Shane Lowry of Ireland celebrates with the Claret Jug on the 18th green during the final round of the 148th Open Championship held on the Dunluce Links at Royal Portrush Golf Club on July 21, 2019, in Portrush, United Kingdom.

(CNN) - He grew up with a famous Gaelic football-playing dad, but Shane Lowry's dream as one of the only golfers in a school of 500 was always to win the Open.

He accomplished that in spectacular fashion Sunday with a momentous six-shot victory over England's Tommy Fleetwood to clinch his first major title at Royal Portrush.

The Open, the oldest of golf's four majors, had not been held in Northern Ireland for 68 years because of the Troubles that dogged the nation, but Lowry's charge to the Claret Jug united fans from both sides of the border.

They roared him on in thunderous fashion and chanted his name in scenes reminiscent of the raucous atmosphere at the Ryder Cup.

Judging by his nerve to build on a four-shot lead in the face of eye-popping pressure, he will be an asset to European captain Padraig Harrington's side in the white-hot atmosphere of Whistling Straits, Wisconsin, in 2020.

The 32-year-old described the experience of winning the Open as "surreal," saying he can't quite believe he is a major champion.

"To do it here in Portrush is even more special, it is a dream come true," Lowry told CNN Sport in the Royal Portrush clubhouse during a whirlwind tour of media engagements.

"I didn't know if I would achieve anything like this and I have and I'm really going to enjoy it."

 

'Dream come true'

Lowry joins an illustrious roll call of recent success stories from the Republic of Ireland and Northern Ireland, alongside three-time major champion Harrington, Portrush's Graeme McDowell the 2010 US Open champion, 2011 Open winner Darren Clarke and former world No.1 Rory McIlroy, who bagged four majors between 2011 and 2014.

And who should be one of his close group of family and friends watching behind the 18th green but Harrington, who won the Open in 2007 and 2008, and McDowell.

"Paddy and G-Mac (McDowell) are two really good friends of mine now and I'm just so happy I can add my name to the list of major champions," he said. "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."

Now he has set his sights on making Harrington's team in the biennial Europe against the USA match next year.

"The Ryder Cup, that's the plan," he added. "It was very kind of Paddy to wait for me on the 18th green."

 

Golf is fickle

Lowry's previous best finished in a major was tied second in the US Open at Oakmont in 2016 -- but the sting in the tail was blowing a four-shot overnight lead going into the final round.

He suffered no such blips on a testing day at Portrush on Sunday, feeding off the lively crowd and seemingly oblivious to the at times torrential rain and gusty winds.

Lowry won his first European Tour title -- the 2009 Irish Open -- when still an amateur and added a fourth in Abu Dhabi in January.

But he missed his fourth consecutive cut in the Open at Carnoustie last year and says he had fallen out of love with the game.

"Carnoustie, that just shows you how fickle golf is," said Lowry, whose dad Brendan followed his round Sunday. "Golf is a weird sport and you never know what's around the corner. That's why you need to fight through the bad times.

"It was something that became very stressful and it was weighing on me and I just didn't like doing it. What a difference a year makes."

McDowell told a story outlining Lowry's early potential as a member of the Irish amateur team alongside McIIroy.

Renowned coach Pete Cowen, mentor now to multiple major champions, was asked down to Dublin to look at the squad and see what he thought. According to McDowell, he said: "Rory McIlroy looks pretty good, but that slightly overweight kid with the glasses looks good, too." That was the young Lowry.

Lowry also lost his PGA Tour card last year but credits the turnaround in fortunes to the people around him, including new caddie Bo Martin and coach Neil Manchip, who delivered a crucial pep talk over coffee at a hotel in nearby Bushmills on the eve of the Open.

"I suppose hard work and belief in myself and belief from the people around me," he told CNN of his reversal.

"I wouldn't be here without any of them."

Lowry also says the perspective that comes from becoming a father to Iris, born in 2017, helps him to process the bad days on the golf course.

"It has a lot. If things didn't go to plan [Sunday] I would have been unbelievably disappointed but at the end of the day you're going back to a warm home with a family.

"It could be worse."

He won the Open at Royal Portrush in front of an excited and proud home crowd.

It couldn't be much better.

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