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Hard work pays off

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The 32-year-old said a change in philosophy had been the key to his success.

Irelands Shane Lowry holds the Claret Jug trophy after winning the British Open Golf Championships at Royal Portrush in Northern Ireland on Sunday. Picture: AP Photo Jon Super

As he walked on to the 18th green at Royal Portrush on Sunday with the Open Championship in the bag, Shane Lowry could not keep the smile from his face.

In the first Open to be held in Northern Ireland since 1951, it was fitting that it should be an Irishman who lifted the Claret Jug. Lowry’s six-shot victory was reward for a unique talent playing the golf of his life.

For most of the week, it seemed as if he was riding a wave, as relaxed as if he was simply playing a few rounds with his friends, not immersed in the cauldron of an Open Championship. It looked easy, but as he let the enormity of his achievement sink in on Sunday evening, he admitted it had taken a lot of work

The 32-year-old said a change in philosophy had been the key to his success.

“Golf is a weird sport and you never know what’s around the corner,” Lowry told reporters. “I sat in the car park in Carnoustie (at last year’s Open), almost a year ago right to this week, and I cried.

“Golf wasn’t my friend at the time. It was something that (had) become very stressful and it was weighing on me and I just didn’t like doing it. What a difference a year makes.”

Carnoustie was the fourth straight Open in which Lowry had missed the cut. Always tipped for the top, in 2016, he let slip a four-shot lead going into the final round of the US Open to miss out on a first major. But a realisation that his family – his wife, Wendy, and young daughter, Iris, were more important than golf allowed him to play freely.

Lowry is the latest in a line of Irishman to win majors, from Padraig Harrington, with three majors in 2007 and 2008, to Graeme McDowell in 2010, Darren Clarke in 2011 and Rory McIlroy with four between 2011 and 2014. It is a stunning achievement for the island of Ireland and Lowry admitted that, initially, following in their footsteps had not been easy.

“I used to curse them an awful lot in the past because that’s all anybody wanted to know about in Ireland because they were winning so many majors,” he said. “When are you going to win one? Winning regular events wasn’t good enough for anyone.”

Once the celebrations are over, which might be a while yet, Lowry will be expected to kick on from here, with a place in next year’s Ryder Cup surely a certainty if he plays half as well over the next 12 months as he did this past week.

“Whistling Straits (the venue for next year’s event) is going to be a windy golf course, and a pressure situation,” Harrington, now Europe’s Ryder Cup captain, told BBC radio. “It’s hard to see him not being in the team at this moment in time.”

Lowry, though, wants to relish his Open triumph. “Geez, let me enjoy this one,” he said.