Shane Lowry produces valiant defence of the Claret Jug but his Covid-impacted reign is finally over 

With a rousing ovation and an anti-climactic run of pars the longest uncontested reign of an Open champion since the war came to an end.

Shane Lowry soaked it all up as he came down the eighteenth, just as he had done two years ago in Portrush, under very different circumstances.

This time there was sunshine in place of the lashing wind and rain of Northern Ireland, and the reception was generous rather than ecstatic. He was coming in at a highly respectable six under and just outside the top ten.

Shane Lowry produced a valiant defence of the Claret Jug at at Royal St George’s

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Having reached the turn in 33 there remained the chance of an unlikely repeat. The ultimately fizzled challenge could not dampen his demeanour as he prepared to hand back the Claret Jug after an improbably long period of possession.

“I really enjoyed the whole week, it was an amazing experience,” said the Irishman. “ Walking down the last hole today was one of the coolest things you’ll ever get to do, and I got to do it.

“I suppose I was a bit edgy the first day, but you kind of get that the week of big tournaments anyway. I don’t think it was a whole lot different from normal Majors.”

If the two years following Lowry’s Portrush triumph have been difficult, it is nothing compared to what followed for the man who ended up holding the title for the longest time.

Lowry came in at a highly respectable six under and just outside the top ten

After Lancastrian Dick Burton won in 1939 at St. Andrew’s it was a matter of months before he was enlisting for service with the RAF. Ahead of returning for the next edition in 1946, when he finished twelfth, he sent the Royal and Ancient a letter with five guineas entrance fee and the promise that he would bring the jug with him.

Next on Lowry’s agenda is the Tokyo Olympics, albeit not everyone’s idea of perfect assignment right now, where he will represent Ireland with Rory McIlroy.

“It’s something I never thought I’d do, but now I get to go and do it,” said the 2019 champion. “ I’m going with one goal and one ambition, and that’s to bring a medal back to Ireland. That’s the only reason I’m going, I’m not going there on my holidays.”

Then it is a campaign to qualify for the Ryder Cup team on merit. In the more distant future is the thought of returning to Portrush, which now looks set to host in 2025.

The Rirshman shakes hands with Paul Casey following the conclusion of their final round

Lowry left himself with too much to do after an opening round of 71, although he threatened to make a late run after three birdies in four holes heading into the turn put him in fifth position yesterday.

His hopes were sunk on the Tenth, when he drove into the rough and then pulled the ball into the bunker, where it ended right up against the wall. There was no option but to nudge it back a couple of feet to try and escape with a bogey, which he did.

Thereafter it was pars all the way to a tied twelfth place finish – exactly the same as Burton 75 years ago.

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