Fourth Round

Fourth Round

At Oakmont in 2016, Lowry had led the U.S. Open by four strokes after 54 holes, but the third round did not end until early on the Sunday morning, and that afternoon the Irishman slid behind Dustin Johnson, almost more disturbed by the saga of whether the eventual champion had been panelized or not for an infraction early in the round than the man himself. Lowry was determined that the same thing would not happen again and the bad weather that arrived for the finale probably worked in his favor. A former North of Ireland Amateur champion at Portrush, the big man from County Offaly was better prepared and more experienced at coping with an Irish storm than most.

Early in the day, conditions were relatively calm as defending champion Francesco Molinari returned a best-of-the-day 66 to finished 11th. Young left-hander Robert MacIntrye scored a 68 to become the first Scot to finish in the top 10 on debut at the Open for 60 years. He tied for sixth with Rickie Fowler, who went out of bounds at the first hole, Danny Willett and Tyrrell Hatton, who teed off two hours prior to the leaders and was the last player to break par with a 69.

Holmes followed Fowler out of bounds at the first hole on the way to an 87 that included four double bogeys and a triple. He finished 67th, beating only three other players. Rose did not fall quite as far but slumped to a surprising 79, while Koepka, whose caddie Ricky Elliott is from Portrush, uncharacteristically opened with four straight bogeys before an eagle at the fifth on the way to a 74. The PGA champion became the fourth player to finish in the top four at all four majors in one year. Tying the American for fourth was Westwood, whose 73 meant he could book trips to Augusta and Royal St. George’s for 2020. Finau pipped the pair for third place, his best major result, with a quietly impressive 71, making him the only player in the last 10 pairings to match par.

Lowry made a nervy swing with a two iron from the first tee, finding the left rough but coming up short of the out-of-bounds line. His second found a bunker and he left his 40-foot putt for par eight feet short. Fleetwood, meanwhile, hit two fine shots and had a 10-footer for birdie. A three-shot swing was possible, but Fleetwood’s putt dribbled wide while Lowry buried his. “That settled me an awful lot,” he said.

He still led by three and it set the tone for the day. Fleetwood missed chances for birdie on the second, for par at the third, from long range at the fourth and for eagle at the fifth. “Those first few holes, when you start four back, were crucial,” said the Englishman. “I didn’t do a good enough job of pressing at that point.”

Lowry claimed birdies at the fourth, fifth and seventh holes, so was well-cushioned when the worst of the weather hit, causing him to drop three strokes in four holes. When Fleetwood birdied the 12th he was still four back, but then he got into trouble at the 14th and took a double bogey. “That was the killer,” he said. “It was pretty much over. It was brutal out there at times, but Shane controlled the tournament from the start to the end and that was very impressive.”

The roar that went up when Lowry birdied the 15th allowed everyone to relax. Except, perhaps, Lowry himself, who was determined to fully realize the lesson he learnt from his U.S. Open experience. “I knew I had to fight until the bitter end today,” he said. “That’s where I struggled at Oakmont. I played the last five holes incredibly well today. I let myself enjoy it down 18, but before that I was really fighting.”

There was plenty more time to enjoy his triumph, from the pubs of Dublin to a parade in his hometown of Clara. Both his victory and the return of the Open to the island of Ireland could be celebrated with equal zeal.

The final leaders: Shane Lowry 72–269, Tommy Fleetwood 74–275, Tony Finau 71–277, Lee Westwood 73–278, Brooks Koepka 74–278.


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