Shane Lowry no longer has to imagine what it is like to lift the Claret Jug. He is the Champion Golfer of the Year, and one of the most dominant of the century. Tiger Woods started it winning by eight, Louis Oosthuizen won by seven, Lowry romped home by six.
It had been 68 years since Northern Ireland and Royal Portrush last hosted an Open Championship, and we can now say that the wait was worth it. Lowry is among the most popular sportsmen on this island. He is one of them: home is where his heart is and always has been.
In 2017, when sliding down the world rankings one year after failing to convert a four-shot lead in the US Open, Lowry took the decision to move his family to Florida. He had no choice. Playing between two tours was taking its toll, and no longer could he realistically target the sport’s most important prizes.
When that did not work as planned, Lowry came home, and so the wheels began to turn. Gradually, he pieced together the confidence which was crafted at Firestone but shattered at Oakmont, and thanks to a happy family life, the construction of a robust support team and an overdue victory in January, he was finally ready to finish the job he started three summers ago.
If his performance on Saturday was magical, a course-record 63 which happened in the clouds, his Sunday 72 was ballsy and stoic, the hands of a magician now employed like those of a surgeon. It started nervously – of course it did – but from the moment a six-foot bogey putt dropped at the first hole, his grip on this famous old trophy was firm.
When the worst of the weather came, it was as if in support of the man who won the Irish Open as an amateur ten years ago in the pouring rain. Lowry looked as he did then: at home on the golf course, comfortable with the weather; a natural at this dark, enchanting side of the game; innocent of the danger which turned JB Holmes into a weekend hacker and even kept Brooks Koepka out of the top three.
Birdies at the fourth, fifth and seventh helped extend the lead to six and that’s exactly where it ended. The details of the middle part of the round are anecdotal – a bogey here or there, nothing really to cause alarm – and he arrived on the 16th tee with enough in hand to begin a 1000-yard victory parade.
By the time he had reached the 18th, so it seemed had half of the island. Lowry, who confessed to telling his caddie all day that he was obsessing over the prize, could now afford to embrace Bo Martin, who performed miracles of his own to keep his man somewhat calm.
Both arms to the sky, the raindrops which fell down from it only served to make this feel even more like home. Shane is from the south, we are here in the north, but sport makes silly such trivialities, at least for a day or two.
“It’s one of my favourite places in Ireland,” said Lowry. And he meant it. Let’s not complicate this: a man from Ireland has just won the Open Championship. Wherever you are from, this was a triumph for what is real: a family man who will drink long after his daughter has gone to sleep tonight.