TV View: Nothing tedious about watching Lowry’s march to glory
Irishman thrives on mental challenge on final day of British Open at Portrush
Shane Lowry celebrates with the Claret Jug on the 18th green after the final round at Royal Portrush. Photograph: Andrew Redington/Getty Images
A catastrophic piece of scheduling meant that for the purposes of TV criticism there was no one else left to watch a great Irish sporting story unfold.
So if Shane Lowry can look forward to counting the blessings accruing from his superb British Open triumph some of us have already done a tot and reckon ourselves well ahead.
Because watching his the Irishman’s progress to glory was not something yours truly would usually have watched.
The instruction was simple - watch the golf. For the day, all of it.
There was no wriggling off the hook. A lack of Sky Sports was no excuse. It’s on ‘Now TV’ for a tenner a day - DO IT!
For context purposes it’s worth pointing out that in the normal course of events, and given the binary choice, yours truly would usually opt for the pleasures of watching paint dry rather than look at golf any day of the week.
Each to their own in every way obviously. But if playing golf is famously a good walk ruined then looking at it on hours of end can feel like pawning those few remaining vestiges of sporting brio.
Attacking golf on the grounds of taste is a cliché; but as a visual experience golf’s real problem for a lot of us is its unremitting tedium.
There’s only so much club selection talk that the uncommitted can take over four hours before minds wander and idle hands itch.
This was no usual day. Golf knowledge wasn’t required to appreciate Lowry’s awesome situation. Little familiarity with the detail of any sport is needed when it comes to recognising human drama.
With a four shot lead going into the final round this was Lowry’s to lose. He would have known that better than anyone. In 2016 he had a four-shot final round lead in the US Open and blew it. In sporting parlance he choked.
It’s sport’s greatest insult, that suggestion of mental fragility under pressure, and it’s what Lowry’s opposition would have banked on.
No doubt Lowry had bumper-sticker stuff pressed on him overnight, glib nonsense about it being preferable to choke on greatness rather than nibbling on mediocrity.
But the bottom line was there was a lot more than just a major golf tournament on the line, something not lost on Sky’s commentary team.
“Obviously there’s fanatical support,” purred Ewen Murray as Lowry stood on the first tee. “It’s all about he handles this now.”
Lowry’s first shot wound up in the rough; his second in a bunker. The third was a putt that never threatened the hole. How many would truly have assumed his position right then?
“It’s usually a sign of nerves, leaving them short,” ventured Darren Clarke. The former British Open winner knew exactly how fried Lowry’s head must have been. So when the Offaly man stood up and nailed an invaluable bogey putt there was real feeling in Clarke’s verdict - “That is a great putt.”
It was too. Anyone could see that. A disastrous start was one rogue twitch away. The eyes of the sporting world were waiting for just such a glimpse of vulnerability. Lowry simply wasn’t having it.
Up ahead golf’s supposed hard-nut, Brooks Koepka, bogeyed the first four holes. Lowry made that look wimpish. After nine holes he was half a dozen clear of everyone else.
Laura Davis said if you’d offered Lowry 36 to the turn beforehand he’d have been happy. At the 11th she suggested “so much can still happen.” But to these inexpert eyes it was a futile attempt to add melodrama to a scenario already dramatic enough.
The weather got worse. The wind, the conditions and the challenge in front of the Irishman got repeatedly referred to as stiff by Murray, Rich Beem and some annoyingly vocal Australian.
The rain only washed away his opposition. The most assured figure remained Lowry. Even his father, Brendan, all too familiar with late swings of fortune, considering he was part of the 1982 Offaly team that shocked Kerry, never really looked like he held a doubt.
“Brendan’s biting his nails,” said Sky, but they were kidding no one.
Maybe the local element to Lowry’s eventual progress down the home straight helped make it feel anything but routine. But it wasn’t just parochial. Anyone, anywhere, no matter what the circumstances or the arena, can recognise talent and resilience being vindicated.
That it should be someone renowned for his down to earth likeability only added to a momentous day by any standards in the history of Irish sport.
“This was a situation that could have all gone very wrong,” Murray summed up. “Such was the expectation and the will wanting him to win. He handled it like a champion.”
When Lowry’s last putt dropped Murray added: “Ireland, there’s your champion.”
Anyone watching was surely blessed to see such a champion in his finest moment - even if it was golf!