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Ireland's Shane Lowry wins 148th Open by six

Mo Yoshimoto
Overnight leader Shane Lowry crafted a 1-over 72 to win the 148th Open Championship by six over runner-up and playing competitor Tommy Fleetwood. (Getty Images)

The 148th Open

Royal Portrush Golf Club

Portrush, Northern Ireland

The winner of the Gold Medal and Champion Golfer of the Year is the Republic of Ireland’s Shane Lowry, who claims his first major title in 27 major appearances at 32 years of age and as World No. 33.

 

Final Leaderboard (pre-tourney odds outright):

1- (-15, 269) Shane Lowry (55/1)

2- (-9, 275) Tommy Fleetwood (28/1)

3- (-7, 277) Tony Finau (66/1)

4- (-6, 278) Lee Westwood (100/1)

4- (-6, 278) Brooks Koepka (11/1)

Note: Repeat top-10 finishers from last year: 1 player, Finau (3-9).

 

Lowry’s Position by Round:

R1: 2 (1 back)

R2: T1

R3: 1 (leader by 4)

 

Course-record 63. Wind and rain were largely absent the first three days on the northern coast. It was, in fact, uncharacteristically-for-an-Open pleasant. Highs between 64 and 66 degrees. Winds nearly non-existent – no more than 15 mph but the majority of the time less than 10. Intermittent showers on Thursday and Friday.

Saturday’s third round on the par-71 layout was downright pleasant. Mostly sunny, 66, winds 7-10 with a few gusts, and the scores reflected it, coming in just slightly over-par at 71.068, the lowest of the week.

Lowry was playing his eighth Open, having missed his last four cuts in the championship. The last time he played the weekend in this major was back in 2014 at Royal Liverpool in Hoylake, England, where he eventually back-doored a previous-best T9 with a final-round, 7-under 65.

Fast-forward to this week’s Open, the first outside of England or Scotland in 68 years.

The Open’s rota, making a triumphant return to Portrush for just the second time, first since 1951, hosted 32 major winners in the 156-man field this week, including three-time major winner and Irishman Padraig Harrington, one-time major winner and Portrush native Graeme McDowell, and Ulsterman and four-time major winner Rory McIlroy, the latter a pre-tourney 8/1 fave outright.

Lowry began the third round co-leading with American J.B. Holmes (Holmes was also the leader after 18 holes).

Lowry tossed up a career-low, bogey-free, course-record 63, gaining 8.068 strokes against the field, to take a commanding four-shot lead into Sunday’s finale.

With proper Open weather – dare I say inclement – in the forecast for Sunday, tee times were moved up and ran from 7:32 AM to 1:47 PM, with Lowry and England’s Tommy Fleetwood, who shot bogey-free 66 on Saturday, sharing the final game.

Sunday, particularly mid-to-late day, brought periods of heavy rain with winds 17-20, gusting 30-35.

Defending champion Francesco Molinari, Italy’s first major champion, went out at 9:17 AM, four-and-a-half hours ahead of Lowry. Last year at Carnoustie, he closed with bogey-free 69, the only blemish-free lap of the day, to come from three back and win the Claret Jug by two over four players, including 2014 winner McIlroy.

This year, Molinari hung up a bogey-free 66, the low round of the day and one of just two blemish-free laps in R4, vaulting 43 places to T11. His 66 gained 7.233 against the field on Sunday, and was one of just nine sub-70 laps (of 73 players).

Molinari’s closing score was the exception for certain. As conditions worsened and major-championship pressure increased, there was just one sub-par round among the final 13 groups (26 players), that by England’s Tyrrell Hatton. Hatton’s 69 out of the 13-to-last group bounced him 17 spots to T6.

Among the other 25 combatants, only Americans Patrick Reed and Tony Finau managed even-par 71s, to finish solo 10th and solo 3rd, respectively, Finau’s a major best and sixth top 10 in 15 major appearances.

The next-best lap of the remaining 23 was produced by the eventual champion. Lowry’s four-birdie, five-bogey 72 for a 72-hole aggregate of 15-under 269, was good for a six-shot victory over Fleetwood, who had a few chances to close the gap out of the gate, but missed several shortish putts early-on and settled for 74 and runner-up.

Which brings me back to Lowry’s course-record 63 on Saturday, tied for the second-best round in Open history.

This was the 148th edition of the oldest major championship and Lowry’s sterling effort on Moving Day saw him post a 54-hole scoring record at the Open of 197, previously 198 by 1996 winner Tom Lehman at Royal Lytham.

Lowry on Sunday:

After kicking off with 67-67 and week-low 63, he began with a four-shot lead over Fleetwood, six clear of 3rd-place holder Holmes, and seven clear of major-slayer Brooks Koepka.

Lowry hit seven (of 14) fairways and 12 greens in regulation with 31 total putts. He squared five bogey-5s at 1, 8, 9, 11 and 14, penciling four birdies at 4, 5, 7 and 15.

OUT: even-par 36 (3 birdies, 3 bogeys); Lowry leads by five (over Fleetwood)

IN: 1-over 36 (1 birdie, 2 bogeys); Lowry WINS by six (over Fleetwood).

Koepka, winner of this year’s PGA (successful defense) and winner of four of the last nine majors he’s played in, opened with four straight bogeys before steadying for a 3-over 74 and T4, nine adrift. The reigning PGA TOUR Player of the Year closed out this year’s PGA at Bethpage Black with 74 as well (4-over), but still won by two after amassing a PGA record, seven-shot lead after 54 holes.

Koepka’s 74 on Sunday came alongside playing competitor Holmes, who labored to a woeful, career-worst, 16-over 87, the day’s worst round by seven shots. Holmes cratered 64 spots to T67, 21 strokes back. Diary of an 87: 1 birdie, 6 bogeys, 4 doubles, 1 triple.

England’s Lee Westwood, vying for his first major victory in 82 tries, ended with 73 for T4, his 19th top 10, first since T2 at the 2016 Masters.

Lowry in Majors:

Starts: 27

Cuts Made: 14 (51.8%)

Consecutive Cuts Made: 3

Top 25s: 6 (22.2%)

Top 10s: 5 (18.5%)

Wins: 1 (3.7%)

Major Form (last two seasons): 1-28-8-MC-12-MC-MC

 

Lowry at The Open:

Starts: 8

Cuts Made: 4 (50.0%)

Consecutive Cuts Made: 1

Top 25s: 2 (25.0%)

Top 10s: 2 (25.0%)

Wins: 1 (12.5%)

Open Form: 1-MC-MC-MC-MC-9-32-37

 

Lowry’s PGA TOUR Career:

Starts: 93

Cuts Made: 60 (64.5%)

Top 25s: 27 (29.0%)

Top 10s: 12 (12.9%)

Top 3s: 5 (5.3%)

Wins: 2 (2.1%)

Lowry’s TOUR Season:

Starts: 12

Cuts Made: 7

Top 25s: 5

Top 10s: 4

Wins: 1

Season Form (most recent six): 1-28-2-8-MC-3

Season Form (first six; reverse order): MC-62-MC-MC-24-MC

Season best previous: T2, RBC Canadian Open        

 

Lowry, playing this season on conditional status, is now fully exempt on the PGA TOUR for 5 years and on the European Tour for 10.

This was his second TOUR victory in 93 events, first since the 2015 WGC-Bridgestone Invitational 65 starts ago, where he came from two back (solo 3rd) with bogey-free, 4-under 66 to win by two.

Lowry has the opposite-field weeks covered. When he won the BI at Firestone CC – as a pre-tourney 80/1 outright and World No. 48 – it was opposite the Barracuda.

This one was opposite the Barbasol.

In his previous start prior to the BI in 2015, he missed the cut (by one) at The Open (St. Andrews), which began a forgettable run of four straight missed cuts in the championship.

This week, he checked in off a T34 at the Irish Open two weeks ago, a tournament he won in 2009 (at Co Louth GC) as an amateur.

Lowry preceded that with T28 at the U.S. Open, where he was T115 after R1; T2 at the RBC Canadian Open; T8 at the PGA, where he was T112 after R1; and T3 at the RBC Heritage as an 18- and 36-hole leader.

The now-defunct BI has been reincarnated as the WGC-FedEx St. Jude Invitational in Tennessee, and is on tap this coming week, opposite the Barracuda. As of this writing, Lowry is still in the published field in Memphis.

Lowry’s European TOUR Career:

Starts: 222

Cuts Made: 167 (75.2%)

Top 10s: 40 (18.0%)

Top 3s: 13 (5.8%)

Wins: 5 (2.2%)

 

This was Lowry’s ninth Euro Tour start of the season, ninth cash and second win, joining the Abu Dhabi HSBC back in January, one of three non-major, non-WGC events that he’s teed it up in.

How Lowry Won the Tournament:

Ranked 1st (or T1) in: Total Birdies; Birdie to Bogey Ratio; Birdie or Better Percentage; Par-3 Scoring; Par-4 Scoring; GIR; All-Around

Ranked 2nd(or T2) in: N/A

Note: See his full stats at the bottom.

Least Important Stat(s): Par-5 Scoring (ranked T31)

By the Numbers:

80/1: Lowry’s pre-tourney odds outright when winning the 2015 WGC-BI (Firestone CC) in his third appearance.

55/1: Lowry’s pre-tourney odds this week.

8/15: Lowry’s revised outright betting entering the final round.

1: Lowry is the first player in TOUR history to win a WGC and major as his first two official victories.

76: The only other time Lowry held a 54-hole lead on TOUR was at the 2016 U.S. Open at Oakmont CC in PA, where he also led by four and closed with 6-over 76 for T2, three shy of champion Dustin Johnson. This Sunday, Lowry could've coughed up another 76 and still won by two, that's how important that Saturday 63 was. 

3: There are now just three events (two weeks) remaining in the regular season: one WGC (FedEx St. Jude), and one opposite-field event (Barracuda), and the regular-season-ending Wyndham.

1946: Since 1946, no player has finished in the Top 2 in all four majors in the same season. Koepka, who finished 2-1-2 in the season’s first three, came T4.

5: Koepka is just the fifth player to finish in the top 5 in all four majors in one year, first since Jordan Spieth in 2015. He joins Jack Nicklaus (x2), Tiger Woods (x2), Rickie Fowler and Spieth.

1971: The last time The Open was the final major of the year was 1971, 48 years ago.

1982: The last time Americans won all four majors in a single year was 1982. They won three this year: Masters: Tiger Woods; PGA: Koepka: U.S. Open: Gary Woodland. Woods and Woodland both missed the cut this week.

1992: Last Englishman to win the Claret Jug was Nick Faldo in 1992. Fleetwood’s runner-up was his third top 10 in 18 majors (all top 5s), and second runner-up, joining a solo 2nd at the 2018 U.S. Open at Shinnecock Hills.

9th: Making his ninth Open appearance, Jason Day missed his first cut.

2009: Adam Scott missed his first Open cut since 2009. He had made his last nine cuts in the championship.

1: Only one player has won The Open as World No. 1: Tiger Woods in 2000, 2005 and 2006. Koepka was trying to join that list.

2: Woods, No. 2 in all-time earnings at The Open (to Ernie Els), opened with 7-over 78, and kicked off R2 with a mid-range birdie. He eventually shot 70 to miss the cut by five.

15: On the run-up to Open week, 2013 champ Phil Mickelson, 49-years-of-age, fasted for six days, drinking only water and a special coffee blend for wellness, and lost 15 pounds. It didn’t help, missing the cut by seven shots (76-74).

83rd: Dating to the 1995 Masters, this was the 83rd time that Woods and Mickelson had competed in the same major and the first time that they both missed the cut.

11: 11 players were in the top 10 thru 54 holes. Only one of those, Fleetwood, did not own at least one PGA TOUR victory.

4: Of the 11 in the top 10 after 54 holes, four were already major champions: Koepka (x4), Justin Rose, Danny Willett, Spieth (x3).

T32: Last week’s John Deere winner Dylan Frittelli, the last man in, finished with 78 for 1-over 285 and T32.

87: First-round leader and second-round co-leader J.B. Holmes ended with a career-worst, 16-over 87 out of the penultimate twosome with Koepka (74). His previous worst was 84 (x2), most recently at the 2017 PLAYERS as a 54-hole co-leader. Diary of an 87: 1 birdie, 6 bogeys, 4 doubles, 1 triple.

1: Through 40 non-team events this season, the pre-tourney fave/co-fave has won one time: Rory McIlroy (12/1) at THE PLAYERS. McIlroy was an 8/1 fave this week (in most markets), and infamously MC’d by one on 2-over 144 (79-65). It’s McIlroy’s second MC at The Open in 11 visits, first since 2013, and ends a streak of four straight top 5s dating to his win in 2014.

T29: Scotland’s Robert MacIntyre (World No. 146) began R4 T29 on 2-under, five short of the overnight top 10. He closed with 3-under 68 (4 birdies, 1 bogey) to climb 23 places to T6. The 22-year-old was making his TOUR & Major debut, and was the top debutant of 33 Open first-timers and the only top-10 finisher among those. The top 10 earns him a return invite for the 2020 Open, AND, is also in the published field at this week’s Barracuda in Nevada.

78: World No. 78 Lee Westwood finished T4, his sixth top 10 in 25 Open appearances, first since T3 in 2013. The top T4 earns him an exemption into the 2020 Masters.

17: Matt Kuchar, who closed with 79 for T41, saw his run of 17 weeks atop the FedExCup standings, including the last 16 weeks in a row, come to an end. Koepka is the new No. 1 for the first time in his career.

33: At OWGR No. 33, Lowry is the lowest OWGRer to win a major since Jimmy Walker (No. 48) at the 2016 PGA.

5: Just five players recorded all four rounds of par or better: Finau: 68-70-68-71 (finished 3rd); Tyrrell Hatton: 68-71-71-69 (T6); Patrick Reed: 71-67-71-71 (10th); Rory Sabbatini: 70-70-71-71 (T16); Doc Redman: 71-71-71-70 (T20).

14: Jim Herman, a pre-tourney 400/1 outright, won the opposite-field Barbasol. He checked in off back-to-back missed cuts at the Rocket Mortgage (failed to meet the terms of Major Medical Extension) and the John Deere (as an alternate). The 41-year-old is the 14th player this season (through 39 non-team events) to MC the start prior and then win in their next start.

Field Scoring Average:

This was the 148th Open, second at Royal Portrush (1951).

Par 71 (36-35)

7,344 yards

 

R1: 72.99

R2: 71.39

R3: 71.07

R4: 73.23

Total: 72.18

Lowry: 67-67-63-72

Had there been ShotLink stats, Lowry would’ve posted a 19.68 Strokes Gained: Total.

Strength of Field:

With a Strength of Field rating of 898 (down 4 from last year), Lowry banks 100.00 world-ranking points: 

OWGR: From 33 to 17 (up 16); tied career high

Note: Lowry was also 17 after the 2016 CIMB Classic.

FedExCup: From 67 to 18 (up 49); career high

Leader/co-leaders by Round:

R1: J.B. Holmes (finished: T67): Drops to 1-for-7 as 18-hole leader/co-leader

R2: J.B. Holmes (T67): Drops to 1-for-5 as 36-hole leader/co-leader

R2: Shane Lowry (Won): Improves to 1-for-2

R3: Shane Lowry (Won): Improves to 1-for-2 as 54-hole leader/co-leader

Note: 54-hole leader/co-leaders won three of the four majors this year. The exception was Woods at the Masters, who came from two back (T2) with 2-under 70 to win by one.

 

Low Rounds:

R1: 66: J.B. Holmes

R2: 65: Justin Harding, Xander Schauffele, Kevin Streelman, Rory McIlroy_MC

R3: 63: Shane Lowry; career low

R4: 66: Francesco Molinari

 

Bogey-free Rounds:

R1: (4): Kiradech Aphibarnrat (68); Tommy Fleetwood (68); Tony Finau (68); Shubhankar Sharma (70)

R2: (4): Xander Schauffele (65); Lee Westwood (67); Andrew Putnam (67); Erik van Rooyen (68)

R3: (4): Shane Lowry (63); Danny Willett (65); Tommy Fleetwood (66); Matt Kuchar (69)

R4: (2): Francesco Molinari (66); Bernd Wiesberger (70)

Multiple Bogey-free Rounds: Fleetwood (x2)

Draw:

A total of 73 pros from a field of 150 pros and 6 amateurs made the 36-hole cut of 1-over 143:

 

30 (of 78) EARLY/late

43 (of 78) LATE/early

 

Top 10s:

10

EARLY/late (3):

Shane Lowry (Won); Robert MacIntyre (T6); Rickie Fowler (T6)

LATE/early (7):

Tommy Fleetwood (2nd); Tony Finau (3rd); Lee Westwood (T4); Brooks Koepka (T4); Danny Willett (T6); Tyrrell Hatton (T6); Patrick Reed (10th)

 

28

28 (of 40) tourneys so far this season with a traditional draw:

Winners:

EARLY/late: 13 (Lowry)

LATE/early: 15 (Jim Herman won this week's opposite-field event)

41

Season Winners, including team-Zurich:

16 winners were in their 20s

18 were in their 30s (Lowry age: 32)

7 were in their 40s (Herman age: 41)

Season Leaders in Top-10 Finishes:

11: Rory McIlroy

9: Jon Rahm

8: Gary Woodland, Matt Kuchar, Patrick Cantlay

7: Brooks Koepka, Dustin Johnson

6: Rickie Fowler, Lucas Glover, Paul Casey, Jason Day, Justin Rose, Adam Scott, Sungjae Im, Marc Leishman, Scott Piercy

5: Tommy Fleetwood, Charles Howell III, Bryson DeChambeau, Adam Hadwin, Hideki Matsuyama, Rory Sabbatini, Chez Reavie, Xander Schauffele, Ryan Palmer, Sergio Garcia, Justin Thomas

 

Consecutive Top 10s on TOUR:

2: Collin Morikawa (4-2)

 

Consecutive Top-10 Streak Ended:

3: Adam Scott (MC-7-2-8)

2: Lucas Glover (20-10-7)

2: Bryson DeChambeau (MC-2-8)

2: Henrik Stenson (20-9-8)

2: Rory McIlroy (MC-9-1)

Lowry’s Weekly Stats (ranking of 73 players):

Birdies: 23 (1st)

Bogeys: 8 (T4)

Birdie or Better: 31.94% (1st)

Birdie to Bogey Ratio: 2.88 (1st)

Par-3 Scoring: 2.75 (T1)

Par-4 Scoring: 3.84 (1st)

Par-5 Scoring: 4.67 (T31)

Driving Accuracy: 35/56 (T22) at 62.50%

GIR: 56/72 (1st) at 79.17%

Putts per GIR: 1.62 (T14)

Total Putts: 117 (T22)

Putts by Round: 31-27-28-31

Scrambling: 11/15 (3rd) at 73.33%

All-Around: (1st)

Leaders in Selected Stats:

Total Birdies:

1. Shane Lowry (23)

2. Rickie Fowler (18)

2. Justin Harding (18)

2. Danny Willett (18)

5. 7 players (17)

 

Driving Accuracy %:

1. Paul Waring (78.57)

2. Adam Hadwin (75.00)

3. Lucas Glover (73.21)

4. 4 players (71.43)

22. Shane Lowry (62.50)

 

GIR %:

1. Shane Lowry (79.17)

2. Francesco Molinari (77.78)

3. Tony Finau (75.00)

3. Lee Westwood (75.00)

5. 4 players (73.61)

 

Scrambling %:

1. Tommy Fleetwood (77.27)

2. Erik van Rooyen (74.07)

3. Shane Lowry (73.33)

4. Tony Finau (72.22)

5. Lucas Bjerregaard (69.23)

 

Putting Average:

1. Justin Harding (1.619)

2. Rickie Fowler (1.660)

3. Danny Willett (1.680)

4. Justin Thomas (1.688)

5. Doc Redman (1.689)

14. Shane Lowry (1.737)