Sunday did not begin well for Shane Lowry, and he never guessed that things would end up well for him.
At the Bushmills Inn where he spent the night sleeping on a four-shot lead, Lowry tossed and turned for much of the night. He had a few hours before the round that would forever change his life. He revealed that he was in fear.
Three years ago at Oakmont, the 32-year old had done the same thing. Before the 2016 U.S. Open devolved into chaos, it was Lowry who had staked himself to a four-shot lead through 54 holes. That afternoon he shrunk at the moment and, even more dishearteningly, limped into the clubhouse with three late bogeys. He wound up second, after a closing 76.
The lively scene in The Open Clubhouse was a stark contrast to how Lowry’s Sunday had started. About a hundred friends, family and various VIP guests were posted up on plush cube seats, celebrating one of the island’s homegrown heroes.
Lowry secured a WGC title in 2015, but earlier this year in January, he built another four-shot cushion, this time in Abu Dhabi, but by the time he stood on the 12th tee, he trailed by three. He needed a birdie on the 72nd hole to eke out the title.
And so there was a reason for anxiety when he arrived at Royal Portrush on Sunday. A day earlier, Lowry had shot a sizzling 8-under 63.
Lowry nervously awaited the start of Game 37, and when his time came, he settled himself enough to drain an 8-footer for bogey, losing only a single stroke.
No one could have ever imagined that Lowry could even contend for The Open a year ago after carding a miserable opening round at Carnoustie and he missed his fourth consecutive cut in his favorite tournament.
Lowry said that he got motivated by linking up with Martin and also returning to his roots on the European Tour, where a decade ago Lowry had launched his star, as the jolly 22-year-old amateur who won the Irish Open. That game, which was more of a ‘confidence game’, is what made Lowry refocus and re-motivated according to McDowell.
The back-nine recovery in Abu Dhabi was Lowry’s first title in nearly three years, and he posted three more top-10s this season on Tour (including at the PGA) to boost his world ranking back inside the top 40.
Lowry spied his wife Wendy, and 2-year-old daughter, as he was preparing to play his approach into the 18th hole. As Lowry played safely into the green, fans flooded the 18th hole to cheer him.
Manchip acknowledged that Lowry had achieved what he was always capable of doing in Ireland.