Shane Lowry’s stout British Open defence sees him share 12th place

Defending champion flirted with glory on last day but fell short at Royal St George’s

Shane Lowry salutes the crowd on the 18th hole at Royal St George’s. Photograph: Paul Ellis/Getty/AFP

Shane Lowry salutes the crowd on the 18th hole at Royal St George’s. Photograph: Paul Ellis/Getty/AFP

 

One of the last gestures performed by Shane Lowry in the dying minutes of his reign as champion was to high-five a young boy on his walk from the 17th green to the 18th tee box. Thereafter, his regulation play up the closing hole was, step by step, acclaimed by the fans crammed into the horse-shoe grandstand; his stout defence finished with a final round 69 for a total of six-under-par 274 and a tied-12th finishing position.

Of course Lowry had wanted to retain the old trophy. Mid-round, he had even imagined it. After a decent front nine, with three birdies in four holes from the sixth to turn in 32 strokes, Lowry had walked onto the 10th tee with a fresh thought. “I was thinking plenty of golfers have shot four or five-under on the back nine in Majors to win and come from behind. I said to myself, ‘Why can’t that be me?’”

Unfortunately for him, that dream was extinguished pretty quickly as a pulled approach into a greenside bunker on the 10th got the most cruel of results. His ball finished buried at the base of the revetted bunker face. All he could do was delicately pitch it back into the bunker to have a shot with his fourth. That he go up and down to save a bogey was impressive in itself but, in truth, that was where any dream of a late charge disappeared.

Lowry had watched some golf on television before making his way to the course and formed his game plan.

Shanw Lowry tees off on the 12th on the final day at Royal St George’s. Photograph: Glyn Kirk/Getty/AFP
Shanw Lowry tees off on the 12th on the final day at Royal St George’s. Photograph: Glyn Kirk/Getty/AFP

“I knew there was going to be a score out there. Someone’s going to shoot a score because it’s tough but it’s gettable. Also, it’s Royal St George’s, and you go out there and try to be aggressive, and you could get kicked in the face. I didn’t want to be that person that’s too aggressive,” said Lowry.

His mind was entitled to think. A birdie two on the Par 3 sixth stirred things. He then had an eagle chance on the seventh - “ I was looking at the board thinking, ‘Wow, if I can hole this, I’m really in the tournament. It’s good to get my juices flowing” - but had to walk away with a birdie.

And he bounced back from a bogey on the eighth with a birdie on the ninth. “I got a little bit of a bad break in the bunker on 10 and nothing much really happened for me over the last few holes. All in all, I played my game plan and I played some good golf and I’m pretty happy with it,” he said.

Lowry has done well in three out of the four Majors this season (his tied-12th finish in Sandwich going with his tied-4th in the PGA and a top-25 at the Masters with the US Open the only time he never challenged).

As he put it, “I really enjoyed the whole week. It was an amazing experience. Walking down the last hole today was one of the coolest things you’ll ever get to do. I think it’s been a great week. I obviously would have liked to have finished a little bit better, but it’s a pretty nice result in a big tournament and another good performance.

“I feel like I’ve played four Majors, obviously, this year, and I feel like three out of four of them I’ve had really good performances, played some of my best golf. If that’s not a step in the right direction, I don’t know what is. I’m pretty happy with my year in the big events.”

Next up for Lowry will be the Olympics in Tokyo and then onwards to the FedEx Cup playoffs and almost certainly the Ryder Cup after that.

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