Shane Lowry is the 2019 Champion Golfer of the Year after winning The Open in sensational style with a six-shot victory.
We got Bernard Gallacher’s thoughts on the Irishman’s performance, and some of the other talking points from Royal Portrush.
Let’s start with Shane Lowry and what a magnificent showing it was. What did you make of his performance?
It was a very calm performance and he was a worthy winner. He had a substantial lead going into the final day, having played some imperious golf in the third round, but he had to sleep on that lead. The pressure was very much on him.
However, the weather on the final day played into his hands. He knew the chasing pack weren’t going to go low in the conditions, so he just had to hold his nerve.
He didn’t have to attack the course to defend his 4-stroke lead, he could just hang onto it. If he avoided making big mistakes like JB Holmes did, he’d get over the line. He had a 4-stroke lead at the 2016 US Open at Oakmont, and even though he didn’t win then, the experience stood him in good stead this time around.
You could tell he was nervous at the first, but he holed a good putt for a bogey and I think he knew he was going to win it then. Had Tommy Fleetwood holed his putt and had Lowry missed his, there would only have been 2 strokes in it. That was a turning point and Lowry dodged a bullet there.
From then on, he looked comfortable, but that didn’t stop the crowd being anxious! They knew that any bad shot at all could be a double or triple bogey, and no one relaxed until he hit the fairway on the last hole.
You then saw the beaming smiles on the face of Lowry and his caddie. It was an enjoyable last hole and he could soak up the acclaim of the Irish crowd. I thoroughly enjoyed that moment.
Does a huge amount of credit have to go to Lowry’s caddie Brian Martin? They’ve worked together for 10 months and Lowry says he’s given him a ‘new lease of life’.
Brian was pivotal to Shane’s success. He clearly relied on Brian, as we saw on the TV. It was great viewing and Sky did an excellent job of capturing the discussions between the two of them.
Brian said the right things at the right time, which is the essence of a great caddie. He knows when to speak and when not to speak, and most of the time he maintains a reassuring demeanour.
It looked like he and Shane had a great rapport and their strong personal relationship was a key part of Shane’s success.
A capacity crowd cheered Lowry to victory. What did you make of the celebrations and how heartwarming was it to see this?
It was fantastic to see how much the crowd were behind him. I particularly liked the chant they made up for him!
Irish politics is a deeply complex issue, as we know, but the golfers from Northern Ireland were very pleased for Shane.
Let’s not forget, Royal Portrush is only a four-hour drive from his hometown, so he had a lot of supporters there with him.
You could feel the palpable atmosphere on the final day and the crowd gave him a lift in the right moments. They never rested on their laurels because they were knowledgeable about the course, as you’d expect from an Open crowd.
The weather didn’t dampen their spirits and you could tell they were true golfing supporters. Most of them probably play golf in some capacity, and have an innate understanding of the sport.
Tommy Fleetwood pushed Lowry most of the way. Is he close to winning a Major eventually? And what did you make of his black and white print shirt which attracted a few headlines?
His time is getting closer and closer – he looked like a Major winner in waiting. It just didn’t quite happen for him in the first three to four holes, where he needed to hole a few putts to reduce the deficit. You sensed it wasn’t going to be his day after he missed his birdie putt on the first green.
He’s definitely got the game to win a Major – there isn’t a weakness in his game. He’s technically sound and he hits the ball straight off the tee.
At 28, he’s got time on his side and he’ll only benefit from this experience. Every Major winner has had to lose a Major before they’ve won one, whether it’s Jack Nicklaus or Tom Watson.
Tommy is an exciting player. However, I didn’t fancy his shirt! I’m obviously of a different generation to Tommy, but I wasn’t very sure about the reverse colours.
If the idea is to get people talking about it, then Nike have done their job, but it’s not a shirt I’ll be rushing out to buy. That said, Tommy can wear whatever he likes if he keeps playing like that.
Rory McIlroy failed to make the cut following a terrible start in the first round. Did the pressure of playing on home soil get the better of him?
I was intrigued to see how Rory would play the first hole because of the pressure on him. It was a difficult opening tee shot – wind right to left, out of bounds on the left, bunker on the right.
When he hit it out of bounds and ended up with an 8, everything went from bad to worse. There was no way back for him in such a strong field and he effectively lost the Championship at the first hole.
It must have been demoralising for him to finish with a 79 in the first round. In fairness, he gave his home supporters plenty to shout about with his second round of 65, but sadly it was all in vain.
His performance was understandable. He’s looking to win in his hometown, he doesn’t want to let anybody down, and he’d said beforehand that winning at Royal Portrush would be the biggest achievement of his career.
Golf is a humbling game and it humbles even the best, sadly. Rory won’t let this affect him – he’ll pick himself, dust himself down and go again next year. He’s won The Players Championship this year, which is effectively a fifth Major, so can take heart from that.
Robert MacIntyre became the first Scottish golfer to finish in the top 10 at The Open since Colin Montgomerie’s second place at St Andrews in 2005. How encouraging was his performance and what do you think the future holds for him?
Robert’s been tipped for the top and his performance at Royal Portrush shows why.
He took advantage of the conditions by getting out onto the field before the weather kicked up, and his closing round of 68 was one of the best of the day.
His T6th position means he qualifies for next year’s Open at Royal St George’s, so I’m looking forward to hopefully seeing him again next year.
It can only help Scottish golf to have players like Robert coming through. Now that Monty’s retired and Paul Lawrie is in his 50’s, there’s a vacancy for great, young Scottish golfers. Robert seems to have filled that void and hopefully this performance gives him a boost for the rest of the season.
Tiger Woods didn’t quite perform as we know he can. How much of a role do you think ‘father time’ and his back injuries played here and what role could they play in his performances at Majors in the coming years?
Tiger arrived at Portrush having played only 10 competitive rounds of golf since his win at Augusta in April and it showed!
The Tiger Woods who was winning Open Championships would spend the week on courses in Scotland and Ireland getting accustomed to the conditions. This was a different Tiger Woods.
He obviously played well at Augusta, but his preparation for this was different to his preparation for the other Majors. He hardly played any golf prior to the US Open or the USPGA Championship, and even the great Tiger Woods isn’t so good that he can get around this.
His golf wasn’t up to it at Royal Portrush and he looked miserable. He wasn’t enjoying it and he wasn’t in control of the golf ball. He looked like he wanted to go home from the first tee, to be honest.
If Tiger is serious about beating Jack’s record of 18 Majors, he needs to rethink his playing schedule.
As touched on earlier, the weather was terrible on the final day, with all of the top 5 scoring over 70. How do you feel this affected the overall play?
These conditions are part and parcel of playing on a seaside golf course.
The problem about playing at seaside courses is, normally the weather is kinder in the morning than later in the day, as we saw at Royal Portrush. It’s a fast-running course and this made the final day very exciting. It was quintessential seaside golf.
I bet the R&A were pleased that the weather kicked up in the last day. They like to see the weather come into play in an Open championship, as do we as spectators.
To me, the golf course was the big winner. Royal Portrush is a superb test for any golfer and I just want to see it on the rota more often. Hopefully, it won’t be too long before we see another Open there.
Many thanks to Bernard for his insights. If you’re hitting the course any time soon, make sure you get our specialist golf insurance if you haven’t already.