Tommy Fleetwood admitted his second runners-up finish in a major hurts much more than his first after seeing his dream of winning The Open slip from his grasp.
The Southport golfer began the final day at Royal Portrush four shots behind eventual champion Shane Lowry but was kicking himself after failing to put the pressure on at the first hole.
Unlike his second place at the 2018 US Open at Shinnecock Hills – when he became the sixth golfer in the tournament’s history to shoot a 63 to almost chase down Brooks Koepka in the final round – he was in contention from the first shot this time.
“Shinnecock has a little piece of history, I shot 63 and it felt great but it was never my tournament (to win),” he said.
“Today was much more in the mix. I’ve had a really good feeling all weekend.
“The other part of it is – and I’m not putting down the US Open – but if I could pick one event, it would be The Open.
“It’s my dream, and it always will be, and when you’re teeing off in the last group on Sunday with a very good chance, it feels a lot rougher finishing when you feel like you’ve come so close to what you’ve dreamt as a kid.”
The 28-year-old knew he had to start well to put the pressure on Lowry but, while the Irishman holed a crucial eight-foot putt for bogey, Fleetwood missed from a similar distance for a birdie which would have produced a vital two-stroke swing.
From there it was an uphill struggle and Fleetwood conceded defeat after the 14th hole when a double-bogey six handed his opponent a five-shot lead.
“I hit two great shots on one, I didn’t convert two (a definite birdie opportunity). I hit a good shot in after a pulled tee shot on three and missed a short one on that (to bogey),” he said.
“Shane played really well and hit the right shots but didn’t always hit great shots. He made some key putts at key times, even down to the first hole.
“If you look at it I have six or seven feet for birdie, he has six or seven feet for bogey. If I hole and he misses we’ve got a one-shot gap and that’s only after one hole.
“He did better in those moments than I did today. I just didn’t convert the putts at the time and I didn’t do a good job of fixing my errant shots.
“Those first few holes, when you start the four back, are pretty crucial. I didn’t do a good enough job of sort of pressing at that point.
“I struggled in the middle but the four back with six to go is still in it. Fourteen was a killer.
“It is such a difficult hole if you’re out of position and I clearly made a mess. You never want to think like that but once that hole was over, that was pretty much it.”
Ireland’s Shane Lowry exorcised the ghosts of Oakmont to claim his first major title in commanding fashion in the 148th Open at Royal Portrush.
Roared on by a sell-out crowd undeterred by the miserable conditions, Lowry carded a closing 72 to become the fifth Irish player to lift the Claret Jug after Fred Daly, Padraig Harrington, Darren Clarke and Rory McIlroy.
The 32-year-old from Offaly finished 15 under par, six shots ahead of England’s Tommy Fleetwood, with American Tony Finau two strokes further back in third.
World number one Brooks Koepka, who was attempting to become the first player in the modern era to finish in the top two in all four majors in a calendar year, had to settle for a share of fourth with Lee Westwood, a result which secured the 46-year-old a first Masters appearance since 2017 next April.
Three years after failing to convert a four-shot lead in the final round of the US Open at Oakmont, Lowry took the same advantage into the last day of the first Open staged outside Scotland or England since Max Faulkner triumphed at Portrush in 1951.
Looking understandably nervous, Lowry pulled his opening tee shot and looked on anxiously as his ball headed towards the internal out of bounds which had cost pre-tournament favourite Rory McIlroy so dear on Thursday.
Similarly errant drives had also led to double bogeys for Rickie Fowler and JB Holmes, but Lowry’s ball was poorly struck and plunged into the rough, from where he found a greenside bunker with his approach.
Fleetwood had found the fairway off the tee and hit a superb second shot to six feet, but missed his birdie attempt and, after a mediocre bunker shot and timid putt, Lowry held his nerve to hole from five feet for just his fourth bogey of the week.
The lead was back to four shots when Fleetwood, who also missed a good birdie chance on the par-five second, bogeyed the third and Lowry moved further clear with a birdie on the fourth which was greeted with a massive cheer from the crowd.
Both players birdied the short fifth before Lowry demonstrated the short-game skills honed in chipping competitions against Harrington by getting up and down from short of the seventh green to pick up another shot.
Lowry, who won the 2009 Irish Open as an amateur in similarly poor weather, looked in total control before a combination of three bogeys in the next four holes and Fleetwood’s birdie on the 12th cut the gap to four.
However, Fleetwood could not turn the screw and double bogeyed the 14th after finding sand off the tee, meaning Lowry increased his lead to five despite failing to save par from over the green.
Lowry, who sacked his caddie after the first round of last year’s Open and missed the cut for the fourth year in succession, had the title in his grasp and a birdie on the 15th had chants of “Ole, Ole, Ole” ringing out around the Dunluce Links.
It also meant Lowry’s name was etched on the Claret Jug by the time he stepped on to the 18th tee and a regulation par sealed an emphatic triumph, Lowry hugging his caddie Brian ‘Bo’ Martin before being embraced by wife Wendy and two-year-old daughter Iris.
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Ireland’s Shane Lowry hailed the best day of his career after taking command of the 148th Open at Royal Portrush.
Roared on by a capacity crowd, Lowry carded a stunning third round of 63 to finish 16 under par, four shots ahead of England’s Tommy Fleetwood.
“It’s the most incredible day I’ve had on the golf course,” said Lowry, whose 54-hole total of 197 eclipsed the previous Open record of 198 set by Tom Lehman at Royal Lytham in 1996.
“Honestly, walking from the green to the next tee the people are literally a yard away from you, roaring in your face as loud as they can. If you have to get up and hit a drive down a tight fairway, it’s fairly difficult.
“I thought I dealt with it very well today and hopefully I do the same tomorrow.
“Every time I got over a putt I wanted to hole it and hear that roar again. I said to Bo (Martin, his caddie) walking off 17, ‘We might never experience anything like the next half-hour again, so let’s make the most of it’.
“I just felt so comfortable out there and hope I do tomorrow. I have a tough 24 hours ahead of me, but there’s nowhere I would rather be. I have a four-shot lead in an Open in Ireland. Tomorrow is going to be incredible no matter what happens.”
Lowry also held a four-shot lead after 54 holes of the US Open in 2016, only to struggle to a closing 76 and finish three behind Dustin Johnson.
“I hope I’m going to be able to deal with it better,” he added. “I know it’s going to be difficult and hard but hopefully I am ready for it.
“I learned a lot about myself at Oakmont. I’m going to learn a lot about myself tomorrow. Tomorrow is a huge day in my career but it probably doesn’t mean as much to me as it did then, which is going to make it a little bit easier.
“I feel like I’m a different person. I don’t think I’m a much different golfer, but I feel like I’m a different person now. I think that’s what will help me tomorrow.
“At the time of Oakmont my golf just meant a lot more to me back then than it does now. I’m not saying that it doesn’t mean everything, it’s my career. But I’ve got certain things in my life that make it different. I’ve got family now.”
That family is wife Wendy and two-year-old daughter Iris and Lowry added: “No matter what I shoot tomorrow my family will be waiting for me.
“At Abu Dhabi at the start of this year, four ahead going into the final round, I said to my wife just have Iris there waiting for me when I finish, because no matter what happens I’m going to be either standing there with the trophy or it’s going to be a disappointing day.
“And it’s going to be the same thing tomorrow.”