Shane Lowry crowned Champion Golfer of the Year at Royal Portrush

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Shane Lowry has been crowned the 2019 Champion Golfer of the Year in front of home crowds after winning the claret jug at Royal Portrush.

Shane Lowry expertly navigated an afternoon of brutal scoring conditions to claim his maiden major title by six shots as the Open Championship returned to Ireland for the first time in 68 years.

With huge crowds lining the ropes from all sides, Shane Lowry found the right hand side of the 18th fairway, and was greeted by the sound of 'Ole, Ole, Ole' before he had even reached his ball. 

Once he'd hit his second shot to just off the right hand side of the green from 180 yards, Lowry hugged and high-fived his caddie as they began their final walk towards major glory.

Until this week, there hadn’t been a major championship held in Ireland since 1951, and the atmosphere descended in to a feverish euphoria around the 18th green at Royal Portrush as the crowds were rewarded with a home champion in Shane Lowry.

He had a hard time quietening the chants and cheers as playing partner Tommy Fleetwood closed out a final-round 74 to finish six shots back, but they gave him the moment he deserved as he two putted for a final-round 72 to finish on 15-under-par.

The final round: How it happened 

As the wind began to blow at Royal Portrush, overnight leader Shane Lowry showed signs of nerves when he pulled his opening tee shot left into the rough and found a bunker with his second. He managed to limit the damage to just a single dropped shot, and it would turn out to be an important moment that helped him remain composed. 

Tommy Fleetwood did have an opportunity to half Lowry’s overnight lead but his birdie putt slipped by the opening hole, and he suffered a similar fate at the par-5 second as both men made pars to keep the gap at three.

Woes with Fleetwood’s putter continued at the next with a short par miss, while Lowry’s two-putt par was enough to move four ahead. He then extended his advantage to five shots for the first time after a sublime iron shot to under 10 feet at the fourth.

Fleetwood drove the green to around 12 feet on the fifth but couldn’t convert his eagle putt, and Lowry's trademark short-game reared its head at the same hole as a birdie moved him to 17-under for the first time this week.

 

After trading pars at the 6th, the weather, which had already begun to deteriorate, became seriously difficult as the wind picked up and the rain lashed the players on the links, but Lowry remained stoic in his mission.

He found the par five seventh fairway from the tee while Fleetwood’s ball sailed in to the thick right-hand rough, and while the Englishman made it back to the fairway his third found the bunker short of the green and he was unable to get up and down for par.

Meanwhile, Lowry’s approach landed just short of the green, and he once more showed off his touch with his wedge as he carded his third birdie in four holes to move to 18-under-par, extending his lead to six.

Wayward drives from both men saw them post matching bogeys at the eighth, and Lowry missed his second-consecutive par putt in a row at the ninth to drop back to -16, giving him a five shot lead around the turn.

Both players were left to rely on their short games yet again over the next two holes, and while Lowry’s lead briefly extended back to six after Fleetwood dropped a shot on the 10th , he handed that hole right back with a three-putt bogey at 11.

A birdie from Fleetwood at the par-five 12th reduced the deficit back to four shots, but a double-bogey on the 14th derailed any chance of a last-gasp challenge from the Englishman, who could do no better than settle for second place. 

Lowry made his first birdie of the back nine to extend his lead to six shots at the 15th, and easily parred his way in for victory, giving Ireland a home champion on the Open's first return to the country since 1951.

Fleetwood finished in second place on nine-under, with Tony Finau posting the best round of the final few groups (a level-par 71) to finish in third place. 

Brooks Koepka and Lee Westwood shared fourth place after rounds of 74 and 73 respectively, while early starters Robert MacIntyre and Tyrrell Hatton, who had the best of the day's weather, shared sixth place with Danny Willett and Rickie Fowler. 

Patrick Reed rounded out the top 10 on four-under, while defending champion Francesco Molinari's round of the day 65 left him tied for 11th with Justin Thomas, Alex Noren and Tom Lewis.

J.B. Holmes, who began the final round in third place, and just six shots back on 10-under-par, ended up with a 16-over-par 87, the highest final-round score in an Open since 1966.