Adrian Meronk sees his golfing horizon broaden with stunning Irish Open success

Impressive breakthrough win is first for a Polish golfer on the Tour

The truth of it is, the final round of a tournament has more heartbreak than joy. For most, it’s a litany of unfulfilled dreams. Only one can win. In this re-energised edition of the Horizon Irish Open played out in front of sell-out crowds, the spoils of victory went to Adrian Meronk – the first Polish winner on the European Tour – who produced a scintillating streak of birdie-birdie-eagle from the 15th hole to close the deal and create his own piece of history.

Meronk, a German-born Pole, and purposely wearing green and white shoes for some luck, signed for a 66 to finish on a 20-under-par total of 268 for the 72 holes, three shots clear of New Zealander Ryan Fox, who bookended his championship with a second round of 64. The impressive breakthrough win earned Meronk a pay-day of €974,605, and got his name added to the Waterford Crystal trophy that has been engraved with legendary predecessors. It also moved him to 63rd in the world rankings.

No cigar, so to speak, for the Irish contingent. But each of the quartet who survived into the weekend’s fare left with positive vibes going forward, three of them initially to the JP McManus Pro-Am, but with their sights cast further ahead to next week’s historic 150th Open at St Andrews.

Shane Lowry finished with a 67 for 276, which gave him a top-10 finish; Pádraig Harrington started like a train, with birdies on his opening five holes, only to have thoughts of a sub-60 scuppered with a double-bogey on the 10th as he ultimately signed for a 69 for 281, tied-31st, where he was later joined by Séamus Power, who had a 68. Niall Kearney, feeding on few opportunities on tour, finished with a 70 for 284 in tied-58th.

For Lowry, it extended beyond the golf. He’d put an Offaly jersey into his bag in the hope he would be able to put it on walking up the 18th fairway to celebrate his county’s win in the All-Ireland minor final. It had seemed the gesture would be required, until a thumbs-down signal from his brother Alan, positioned by the 17th tee, confirmed the young hurlers had fallen at the death.

“It’s devastating for those young lads. Look, that’s sport, isn’t it? I’ve been on the wrong side of a lot of results and, if you take the positives from it, you’ll be okay,” said Lowry.

On the golf front, though, there was much for Lowry to take away. He had salvaged a potential lost weekend by birdieing his final four holes on Friday, and brought that momentum into the weekend for rounds of 68 and 67 that moved him to a share of ninth place.

“If I didn’t make those four birdies, then I’d be searching for something this week, even though I have no need to … all I wanted to do was go out and find some good form and play some good golf and bring a bit of confidence to St Andrews. And I really felt like I got that. I hit the ball pretty much for the last 36 holes where I wanted to a lot of the time,” said Lowry who plans to enjoy the JP McManus Pro-Am experience before switching his thoughts to links golf, with practice rounds at Portmarnock and Baltray in the diary for later this week ahead of heading to the Scottish east coast.

Harrington had the morning crowds giddy with anticipation after a stunning start of five straight birdies. He even had a thought of 59 swirl through his head, until tree trouble with his approach to the 10th ruined such notions and the delivery of a 99 ice cream at the 14th at least provided some on-course solace.

“I was much better on the greens this week than last week [when winning the US Seniors Open]. I had the ball rolling well, no tension. I see some very positive things in putting. Maybe my future career is having some good weeks putting and some bad weeks,” said Harrington.

Power, who will be making his Open debut at St Andrews, is also in Adare Manor but then plans on playing some links golfer later in the week and to play Royal County Down on his way to catch the ferry to Scotland from Belfast.

“You don’t forget how to hit low shots and take spin off, that sort of thing. But obviously the conditions, no matter how good you can be at links, if the conditions turn against you it can be very difficult. So it’s about preparing as well as you can this week, or end of this week, go over and get some good practice rounds,” said Power.

Three players – David Law, John Catlin and Fabrizio Zanotti – earned their tickets to St Andrews with their tied-fourth place finishes.

Meronk, already exempt for the Open, was hugely impressive in a final round that featured an eagle, on the 17th, to go with five birdies and a bogey in his round of 66, with all four rounds in the 60s. “I knew I had a three-shot lead but playing 18, probably the toughest hole on the course, so I still was super focused on my targets trying to do a couple good swings. As soon as my ball landed on the green after the second shot, I knew that was it. It was such a relief.

“[The win] is another step to go forward. My goals are quite high. I’m usually just aiming quite high so this is a great step going forward. I’m super excited of what’s ahead of me, and I’ll be focusing on the next couple of weeks which are quite big for me as well.”

Final leaderboard

Irish and British unless stated, par 72

268 Adrian Meronk (Pol) 67 67 68 66

271 Ryan Fox (Nzl) 64 73 70 64

272 Thriston Lawrence (Rsa) 66 72 67 67

273 John Catlin (USA) 67 72 65 69, Fabrizio Zanotti (Pry) 65 69 69 70, David Law 67 69 70 67

274 Jorge Campillo (Esp) 65 68 70 71

275 Thorbjoern Olesen (Den) 70 69 70 66

276 Shane Lowry 71 70 68 67, Lucas Herbert (Aus) 69 68 68 71, Espen Kofstad (Nor) 67 72 65 72, Aaron Rai 66 70 70 70

277 Antoine Rozner (Fra) 66 75 65 71, Robert MacIntyre 68 73 67 69, James Morrison 69 68 69 71

278 Matthew Southgate 71 68 67 72, Dale Whitnell 66 74 66 72, Santiago Tarrio (Esp) 71 68 72 67, Oliver Bekker (Rsa) 68 71 72 67

279 Alexander Bjoerk (Swe) 67 72 70 70, Jamie Donaldson 69 69 72 69, Justin Walters (Rsa) 70 71 69 69, Marcel Schneider (Ger) 65 73 72 69

280 Johannes Veerman (USA) 72 70 69 69, Edoardo Molinari (Ita) 75 67 67 71, Jordan Smith 66 73 72 69, Matthew Jordan 71 71 68 70, Callum Shinkwin 68 74 68 70, Alfredo Garcia-Heredia (Esp) 71 71 69 69

281 Sami Valimaki (Fin) 68 73 74 66, Pádraig Harrington 70 71 71 69, Séamus Power 68 68 77 68, Maximilian Kieffer (Ger) 67 74 71 69, Romain Langasque (Fra) 68 70 74 69, Matthias Schmid (Ger) 70 68 69 74, Julien Brun (Fra) 72 68 70 71

282 Thomas Pieters (Bel) 73 67 69 73, Mikko Korhonen (Fin) 67 70 75 70, Marcus Armitage 73 69 71 69, Richie Ramsay 69 72 70 71, Jack Senior 69 67 67 79, Sebastian Garcia (Esp) 69 71 70 72, Frederic Lacroix (Fra) 65 71 73 73, Marcel Siem (Ger) 68 70 73 71, Hurly Long (Ger) 73 69 70 70

283 Brandon Stone (Rsa) 69 72 71 71, Pablo Larrazabal (Esp) 66 73 70 74, Sebastian Soederberg (Swe) 70 66 73 74, Sean Crocker (USA) 69 71 71 72, Joakim Lagergren (Swe) 70 71 71 71, Nino Bertasio (Ita) 68 68 73 74, Julien Guerrier (Fra) 71 70 73 69, Soeren Kjeldsen (Den) 73 67 70 73, Marcus Helligkilde (Den) 68 71 76 68, Hugo Leon (Chi) 73 68 68 74, Oliver Farr 67 73 72 71, Lorenzo Gagli (Ita) 75 67 75 66

284 Min-Woo Lee (Aus) 72 70 71 71, Stephen Gallacher 72 69 72 71, Scott Hend (Aus) 72 70 71 71, Niall Kearney 68 74 72 70, Thomas Detry (Bel) 72 69 73 70, Wil Besseling (Ned) 69 71 73 71, Yannik Paul (Ger) 71 71 71 71, Niklas Noergaard Moeller (Den) 69 72 72 71, Renato Paratore (Ita) 70 70 74 70

285 Matthieu Pavon (Fra) 70 71 73 71, Maverick Antcliff (Aus) 71 69 75 70, Alvaro Quiros (Esp) 69 70 73 73

286 Rikard Karlberg (Swe) 69 69 70 78, Ricardo Gouveia (Por) 69 72 73 72, Oliver Wilson 68 74 74 70

288 Tapio Pulkkanen (Fin) 72 70 74 72

289 Nicolai Hoejgaard (Den) 70 72 70 77, Marc Warren 69 70 76 74

290 Andy Sullivan 67 72 73 78, Zander Lombard (Rsa) 67 73 76 74

292 Kazuki Higa (Jpn) 69 70 78 75

Philip Reid

Philip Reid

Philip Reid is Golf Correspondent of The Irish Times