A Little Fat Lad Wins The Claret Jug

The 148th Open Championship was over by Saturday night.

Jim Rome
July 22, 2019 - 9:31 am
Shane Lowry

USA Today

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In the buildup to the Open Championship, there was a lot of talk about Rory McIlroy, and Brooks Koepka, and Phil Mickelson, and Tiger Woods. There wasn’t much talk about Shane Lowry. If you want to talk odds, you could get him anywhere from 55-1 all the way to 105-1.

Then he went out and shot a 67 on Thursday. Nice round. Really nice round.

But it had the feel of a name that jumps up on Thursday and then fades away. Then he backed that up with another 67 on Friday. Again, good round. Make that two good rounds, but eventually, the big dogs will take over. Someone will come out and shoot a monster score on Saturday and Lowry will fade.

And that’s exactly what did happen. A big dog did take over. Someone did shoot a monster score on Saturday. And that someone was Shane Lowry. A bogey-free 63. 67, 67, 63.

And the 148th Open Championship was over by Saturday night. Sure, there were still 18 holes to play and guys like Brooks Koepka and Tommy Fleetwood, aka Golfing Jesus, were on the leaderboard, technically, but there’s no way they were running down Lowry.

At least that’s what the world thought.  But not necessarily what Lowry thought. Not when he still had the 2016 U.S. Open at Oakmont still rattling around in his dome. He was still thinking about having a 4 shot lead after 54 holes, only to shoot 76 on Sunday and come from ahead to lose.

He still has the scar tissue from that. Of course. Who wouldn’t? As he said, the days after that US Open were torture. And he drove himself insane with all the what-ifs.

Maybe that’s why he didn’t sleep much Saturday night. Maybe that’s why he was up early Sunday morning. And maybe that’s why he said afterwards, "I suppose I didn't even know this morning if I was good enough to win a major.”

He got his answer. He is good enough to win a major. Yesterday wasn’t perfect. Far from it. He had his shakiest round of the tournament yesterday and still came to the 18th green and had a nice moment.

Shane Lowry. Sheer domination. That was a monster performance. An absolute master class in how to dominate a course and a field.

That is how you bust out of the shadow of guys like Darren Clarke, Padraig Harrington, Graeme McDowell, and Rory McIlroy. By coming to the first Open Championship in Northern Ireland in nearly 70 years and smashing the entire field.

And the fact is, while no one was really talking about him coming, it’s not like he came out of nowhere. The talent has been there. There’s a story from back in the day of swing guru Pete Cowen seeing a bunch of young Irish golfers, including McIlroy. His response after watching them play: “Rory’s going to be great. But there’s another good one out there. The little fat lad with the glasses.”

Let’s take a moment to stop on the little fat lad with glasses. As great a win as this is, notice no one is saying, damn! This dude looks more like an NFL linebacker than he does a golfer! And you know why that is? He doesn’t look like an NFL linebacker. He does look like a golfer. Or at least what golfers looked like before the Cat, Brooks and Gary Woodland showed up. 

“And that little fad lad with glasses” is now the Champion Golfer of The Year.

And it happened just a year after that  “little fad lad with glasses” was crying in the parking lot at Carnoustie.

Yeah, I said crying. Because as he said yesterday, after he missed the cut at the Open in 2017, he was having a really hard time.

“Golf is a weird sport and you never know what’s around the corner. I sat in the car park in Carnoustie, almost a year ago right to this week, and I cried. Golf wasn’t my friend at the time. It was something that become very stressful and it was weighing on me and I just didn’t like doing it. What a difference a year makes.”

Hell yes, that’s a different year. You go from being in a spot where you don’t like the game to being on top of the game. From blubbering in the parking lot to drinking out of the Claret Jug.  In just a year’s time.

Somehow, he turned it all around. Somehow he got his game right and his head right, so that he could have a moment like yesterday.

And it’s not just that he did it, but HOW he did. He was under immense pressure; maybe not Rory pressure who came in as the favorite and native son, but big pressure nonetheless. And my guy wasn’t fazed by it at all this week. Being from Ireland and playing essentially in front of your home fans all weekend? No problem at all.

And the pressure that seemed to get to Rory never got to Lowry. Again, Lowry wasn’t facing nearly the same level of scrutiny, but then when the pressure did build up after the first two rounds, he stomped it out with that epic 63 on Saturday. 

But the best part of Lowry isn’t that he was too cool for the whole thing. There were so many great lines from his press conference.

“I feel like this is an out-of-body experience. I was so calm coming down the last. It was so hard out there. I wasn’t doing so well around the turn. But everyone else was struggling. I just had to focus on staying as far ahead of Tommy as I could.”

“I talked a lot to Bo [Martin], my caddie. I couldn’t stop thinking about winning. But that was after six or seven holes.”

And about those conversations with his caddie, what were they talking about?

"I kept on telling him how nervous I was, how scared I was, how much I didn't want to mess it up."

That is so great. One golfer after another tries to tell you that they are so focused, so locked in they don’t even think about winning. Lowry is admitting that he couldn’t stop think about winning. That he was almost distracted by it. And that he was scared.

Why wouldn’t he? He’d never won a major. He had one top 10 finish on the PGA Tour in 2017. He was crying in a parking lot last year. Of course he was scared: he was just the only dude ever, brave enough to admit he was. Scared.

And if you think he was distracted by it, check out his grandmother. She told RTE that yesterday was rough.

Hadn’t had a brandy in ten years, then had two yesterday and “it’s nearly killed me.” That’s two for me. One jug for her grandson and two brandy’s for his grandmother. And an awesome moment for all of Ireland, and it didn’t have anything to do with Rory McIlroy. Go figure.