Contenders fail to put heat on Lowry
July 21, 2019
By Mike McAllister, PGATOUR.COM
- Tommy Fleetwood finished solo second at The Open Championship. (David Cannon/Getty Images)
PORTRUSH, Northern Ireland – The first sign of contender futility came, fittingly enough, on the opening hole Sunday at The Open Championship. Shane Lowry hit a “ropy” tee shot into the rough. Playing partner Tommy Fleetwood hit two “great’ shots to set up a birdie. Lowry was left with an 8-foot putt just to save bogey.
What started as a four-shot lead for Lowry could’ve been reduced to one in a flash. With 17 holes left, the entire field would’ve received a boost.
Instead, Lowry made his clutch bogey putt. Fleetwood missed his short birdie attempt. Yes, Lowry’s lead was reduced to three shots, but it could’ve been much worse.
And in the end, no chaser was really able to apply much pressure on Lowry, who ended up winning by six shots – the largest margin in a major in five years and the largest at The Open since Louis Oosthuizen’s seven-stroke win in 2010.
“The first few holes, when you start four back, pretty crucial,” said Fleetwood after his 3-over 74. “I didn’t do a good enough job of pressing at that point.”
No one did. Lowry did his part, shooting a 1-over 72, a terrific score given the pressure of holding the lead and the intense weather that kicked in mid-round. He never gave anyone an opening, forcing the rest of the field to make moves.
Fleetwood had his opportunities but missed too many early putts. He failed to convert a birdie chance at the par-5 second, and then missed a short par putt at the par-3 third after his nice recovery off a poor tee shot.
He hit a lull in the middle of the round when rain, then strong winds made their presence known. And when Lowry did stumble with a bogey at 14, Fleetwood responded with double-bogey.
“14 was killer,” Fleetwood said, who finished solo second.
At least he was close to keeping up.
J.B. Holmes, who started the day six back of the lead, opened with a double bogey at the first on his way to a front-nine 41. Then it got worse. Holmes had been the tournament leader in fairways hit and ranked T-2 in greens in regulation, but his tee-to-green game failed him Sunday. He started the back nine with triple bogey-double bogey en route to a 16-over 87.
Holmes’ playing partner, Brooks Koepka, showed he was human after 15 impressive rounds in majors this season. Koepka started with four consecutive bogeys to shoot himself out of it.
Still, his 74 left him at 6 under and tied for fourth to go along with his win and two runner-up finishes this season in the majors. He also moved into No. 1 in the FedExCup standings with just two weeks left in the regular season. It’s the first time in his career he’s led the FedExCup at any point of the season.
“As a whole it's awesome,” Koepka said of his results. “That's what I'm striving to do, play well in the big events. And I sort of did that. This week is disappointing, but the rest of them have been -- it's been great. I'm not going to lie. It's been fun. I would have liked to have just made a few more and finished it off with a bunch of second places.”
With the challenging weather – Lee Westwood called it “some of the toughest conditions I’ve played in an Open Championship” – few players were able to find red figures. In fact, of the top 10 on the final leaderboard, only Bob MacIntyre (68) and Tyrrell Hatton (69) shot under par.
Tony Finau managed an even-par 71 to finish solo third. That’s his best finish in any major – and his fifth top-10 in his last eight major starts.
“My game travels,” Finau said. “I continue to just prove to myself one day I can win one of these. No doubt.”