Shane Lowry wins Open Championship, as Englishman Tommy Fleetwood rues missed chances

Lowry, the 32-year-old Irishman with stout nerves and a soft touch around the greens, endured the worst weather of the week and the Sunday pressure of a sellout crowd cheering him along to win the Open Championship. (AFP)
Updated 21 July 2019

Shane Lowry wins Open Championship, as Englishman Tommy Fleetwood rues missed chances

  • The silver claret jug is staying on the Emerald Isle
  • Tommy Fleetwood found it hard to take solace in his second-place finish at the Open

PORTRUSH, Northern Ireland: Shane Lowry made the 68 years between Open Championships in Northern Ireland worth the wait.
The silver claret jug is staying on the Emerald Isle.
Lowry, the 32-year-old Irishman with stout nerves and a soft touch around the greens, endured the worst weather of the week and the Sunday pressure of a sellout crowd cheering him along to win the Open by six shots at Royal Portrush.
Even as the rain stopped, the tears began flowing.
“I can’t believe this is me standing here,” Lowry said as he cradled golf’s oldest trophy. “I can’t believe this is mine.”
It was never really in doubt.
Lowry closed with a 1-over 72, the first time since 1996 the Open champion was over par in the final round, and it was no less impressive. More difficult than the rain was wind strong enough to break an umbrella. Lowry began making bogeys in the middle of the round without losing ground. No one from the last 12 groups broke par.
And no one got closer than three shots all day of Lowry, who finished at 15-under 269.
Tommy Fleetwood found it hard to take solace in his second-place finish at the Open as he failed to reel in Shane Lowry at Royal Portrush on Sunday.
The Englishman finished six shots behind Lowry after shooting a three-over par round of 74 in horrendous weather conditions.
But he was left to rue a series of missed chances early on to put pressure on the Irishman.
“If I could pick one event it would be The Open. It’s my dream, and it always will be and you’re teeing off in the last group on Sunday with a very, very good chance,” said Fleetwood.
“It feels a lot rougher finishing when you feel like you’ve come so close to what you’ve dreamt as a kid.”
Fleetwood was still in the hunt at four shots back with six to play, but a double bogey at the 14th realistically ended his challenge.
“Them first few holes, when you start four back are pretty crucial. I didn’t do a good enough job of sort of pressing at that point,” he added.
“Struggled in the middle and four back with six to go and still in it, but 14 was a killer blow.”
American Tony Finau was the only player in the final 10 groups to not finish over par for the day as howling wind and heavy rain made low scoring nearly impossible.
But Fleetwood paid tribute to Lowry’s ability to handle the conditions and the tension to win his first major title with a 72 to finish 15-under par.
“When we got on to eight, nine, 10, just shocking, shocking weather. It was really, really difficult. I made a par on nine that felt like a birdie,” added Fleetwood.
“It was just tough. I think everybody would have got to a point and start going backwards.
“When the winds are like that on a links course, it plays hard, that’s just the way it is. You’ve got to do your bit.
“I think that makes Shane’s round of one-over even more impressive, controlling the day like he did.”

(With AFP and AP)


Formula One in brave new world as Verstappen seeks repeat Austria triumph

Updated 03 July 2020

Formula One in brave new world as Verstappen seeks repeat Austria triumph

  • Teams are cut to a maximum of 80 staff, all in protective equipment

SPIELBERG, South Africa: Max Verstappen will seek a hat trick of home wins for Red Bull and an early lead in the drivers championship at this weekend’s delayed and somewhat surreal season-opening Austrian Grand Prix.

For everyone involved, the race will be an unprecedented experience — the calendar is unknown beyond the first eight races in Europe in 10 weeks, all to be run behind closed doors and severe limitations introduced with a new paddock protocol forbidding meetings.

As racing returns, the COVID-19 virus remains in circulation, which requires all participants to be tested before travel to Austria on private chartered jets, ongoing tests, the separation of teams and car crews into “bubbles” and controlled hotels.

Teams are cut to a maximum of 80 staff, all in protective equipment, there will be no sponsors, no guests and only a limited number of accredited broadcast and written news media.

Journalists, limited to a dozen instead of 300 or more, have to pass a test within 72 hours in advance of arrival and will not be allowed to leave the media center.

All interviews and news conferences will take place by video.

The teams will be kept isolated, based in tents with awnings instead of their usual grand motorhomes — and there is expected to be a synchronized taking the knee by the drivers on the grid, to support Black Lives Matter, ahead of Sunday’s race.

Afterwards, there will be no podium ceremony.

When the race begins, it will end the longest gap between races in the sport since 1962, but with two successive races in Austria and then one in Hungary, the pressure will be immediate and intense.

Red Bull team boss Christian Horner said: “There’s been a long drought. We all do this because we love it. We’ve missed it, so we can’t wait to start.”

“It’s going to be exciting and intense. The races come thick and fast.”

Dutch driver Verstappen, who bullied his way past Ferrari rival Charles Leclerc to triumph in front of a mass of his “orange army” of fans last year, says he is unfazed by high expectations or the absence of spectators at the Red Bull Ring, a remote and compact circuit in the Styrian Alps.

“I am not thinking about a hat trick,” he said.

“The most important thing for me is to have a competitive car and to perform at my best.

“I never consider myself as a favorite because, actually, when you look at the track, it’s not even our best one, but last year it was very warm and we were good at keeping the engine cool.

“So I don’t expect an easy win. I think Mercedes will be very strong again and they are the ones to beat.”

Verstappen, who has kept a low profile during the lockdown, delivered three wins and eight podiums last year as Lewis Hamilton claimed his sixth title with Mercedes, who this year seek an unprecedented seventh constructors’ and drivers’ double in succession.

Verstappen and teammate Alex Albon will have an upgraded Honda engine package, developed since the coronavirus lockdown ended, to boost them at the contest in the Styrian Alps where the 800-meter altitude can affect engine performance.

Mercedes will also have an updated package while Ferrari, struggling to match them in pre-season testing, announced Tuesday that they are updating their cars for the third race in Hungary.

Hamilton this year bids for a record-equalling seventh drivers title as he campaigns passionately for greater diversity, and against racism, in the sport.

“We are preparing the best way we can for what is going to be the most difficult season that F1 and all of us have experienced,” he said in a video from the team, which — at his prompting — is running black livery this year to support equality and diversity.