Lowry lets chance slip by as Howell claims Dunhill title in play-off
English golfer beats Peter Uihlein in play-off at St Andrews
David Howell with pro-am playing partner Hugh Grant (left) celebrates winning the 2013 Alfred Dunhill Links Championships at St Andrews. Photograph : David Cheskin/PA
Ireland’s Shane Lowry let a chance to claim the biggest victory of his professional career slip by at St Andrews on Sunday as David Howell claimed his first European Tour title in seven years by beating American Peter Uihlein in a sudden-death play-off at the Alfred Dunhill Links Championship.
An eagle at the 10th followed by a birdie saw Lowry move into the lead coming to the last seven holes, but bogeys at the 13th and 15th saw him lose momentum.
The Offaly golfer still had a chance to make it to 23 under on the final green, but he pushed his birdie effort to the right as he signed for a four-under 68 to finish alongside Tom Lewis in a share of third spot on 22 under.
Lowry picked up a cheque for just under €200,000, his biggest of the season, and has now earned €716,000 for the season and moves up into the top 30 in the Road to Dubai standings.
Lowry was quick to take the positives out of the tournament as the lucrative end of season events get underway.
“It was obviously a great week for me,” Lowry said. “I fell one short but you can’t really beat yourself up about that. I didn’t hit a great chip shot on 10, just hit the flag and went in.
“When you do stuff like that you start to think maybe it’s going to be my day. But the holes coming in were playing tough and a sloppy bogey on 15 was the costly one I think. But I can’t complain really. If I keep doing what I’m doing, I can’t see a win being too far round the corner.”
Howell carded a final round of 67 to set the clubhouse target of 23 under and then watched as overnight leader Uihlein missed from 15 feet for a winning birdie on the 18th, meaning the pair finished tied on 23 under par.
Both players narrowly missed long birdie attempts on the first extra hole, meaning action switched from the first to the 18th.
Uihlein left his birdie putt from long range inches short but Howell, who had lost all four of his previous play-offs, made no such mistake from eight feet to claim the title and first prize of €590,000.
Howell was ranked as high as ninth in the world in June 2006, shortly after winning the PGA Championship at Wentworth, but six years later was down in 367th after a number of injuries and loss of form.
The 38-year-old, who will be back in the world’s top 100 on Monday, also revealed that off-course issues had contributed to his slump, but could not be happier that wife Emily is expecting twins in December; the couple already have an 18-month old son, Freddie.
“It’s incredible, the sun is shining and the crowd have come out,” said Howell, who played in both record nine-point Ryder Cup wins in 2004 and 2006. “I have never played in an Open Championship here but to win a golf tournament as a professional at the Home of Golf is quite amazing and I am really thrilled.
“I was really nervous all week and strangely less nervous today – I can’t explain that at all. I stayed calm and smooth under pressure and that was really pleasing.
“It’s been a long, long road from the depths of despair. I have had a lot of support from people around me and this is as much for them as it is for me.
“The downs were pretty low and I lost my way in life and on the Tour as well. Off course I was not a happy camper and made some bad decisions around 2008 and took some time to sort through them. I owe Emily a debt of gratitude for having me back and showing me that we were always going to be a happy couple in the end.
“This is a sweet moment to be happy and settled with Emily and Freddie at home and the twins on the way and to win a massive championship seals the deal. Hopefully it can spur me onto bigger and better things.”
Back to back bogeys on the 14th and 15th blotted a fine round from Darren Clarke as he closed with a 69 to end the week on 18 under.
Ryder Cup captain Paul McGinley had a 67 to finish on 16 under, while Michael Hoey closed on 14 under after a 73. Pádraig Harrington’s 71 saw him end up on 11 under.