The 148th Open was one of the best of modern times, says Ewen Murray
Last Updated: 24/07/19 2:25pm
The much-heralded return of The Open to Royal Portrush for the first time in 68 years was a resounding success, and Ewen Murray has been reflecting on an outstanding venue and a worthy Champion Golfer of the Year...
With the dust settled on a hugely successful Open Championship at Royal Portrush, there are so many positives to look back on.
In a small country where there are more sheep than people (1.8m residents), Northern Ireland can bask in the glory of an outstanding achievement and they delivered one of the best Opens in modern times.
Some of that was down to the majestic Links of Dunluce. A course so few of the competitors knew, but one the world of golf has now been introduced to. A classic Open test, presented superbly, asking all the relevant questions of a golfer worthy of such a prestigious title.
The fact an Isle of Ireland native prevailed, added to a legendary week. The coastline of this enchanting corner of Northern Ireland will forever be remembered for a fairytale ending to the greatest championship in golf.
So much more happened throughout the week. An incredible 237,000 spectators ﬂocked to this hallowed land, a record only surpassed by the millennium championship at St Andrews. The policing and traﬃcking of the event was admirable, the organisation magniﬁcent, so much so that it will be a lot less than 68 years before Portrush hosts another Open.
Get the best prices and book a round at one of 1,700 courses across the UK & Ireland
In Shane Lowry, we have a supreme golfer as holder of the Claret Jug. An unassuming man who is as honest as the day is long. Naturally gifted, easy-going and one of the people. Many pictures and videos have been viewed since Sunday night of the champion sharing his victory with what seemed like the whole of the Island.
Yet one of the pictures I will remember fondly is that of his loyal caddie and him having broken through the crowd to enter the arena at the 72nd hole. Arm in arm, Bo, from the north, Shane from the south - united in victory. I said that in commentary and chose not to add to it, but I think it was a poignant moment, a signiﬁcant one.
Shane will rightly take a step back and take time to celebrate his historic achievement. There is no need to play until he is ready to compete. Others down the years have played when they really didn't feel like it, but there is just no need to "chase the dollar". Come back when the time feels right.
The 148th Open was preceded by dreams and hopes of Rory McIlroy winning in his homeland. These dreams were shattered as early as the ﬁrst hole on Thursday. Perhaps the expectation, the occasion, the moment were quite simply too much.
Having secured the Portrush course record of 61 at 16 years of age, Rory took the equivalent of a shot more at each hole to post an opening 79. His reaction to that on Friday was outstanding, and a 65 was one shy of what was required to play the last 36 holes.
His words after round two showed just how much it hurt, how much he cared. It was a sad ending to what was probably the most entertaining Friday in Open history.
What happened by the shores of the Atlantic Ocean last week will be the making of McIlroy. Deep disappointment will lead him to evaluate the last few years. There have been successful moments aplenty, but top-five ﬁnishes and a win here and there are only "okay" in his world.
On his day, he is the most complete player in our sport, an intoxicating mixture of power and elegance, belief and conﬁdence. Portrush was a severe blow but one he will look back on as a lesson learned and a new beginning. I expect Rory to relight the ﬂame and dominate the next few months. Even great players require the odd reminder that hard work and desire are vital ingredients to not only reach the top, but to stay there.
The coastline of this enchanting corner of Northern Ireland will forever be remembered for a fairytale ending to the greatest championship in golf.
While the Champion Golfer of the Year continues to celebrate with his countrymen and women, this Open enjoyed some positive moments that could well fashion the future; like 22-year-old Robert McIntyre becoming the first Scottish golfer since Andrew Kirkcaldy in 1879 to finish in the top 10 in his maiden Open appearance.
Colin Montgomerie was the last Scot inside the top 10, all of 14 years ago. All good, and a game-changing moment came during the championship while partnering American golfer, Kyle Stanley. Having hit the odd wild tee shot, Stanley failed to shout "fore". McIntyre had a problem with that and voiced his concerns. Good on him.
The European Tour are strong on this, the PGA Tour is not. It's time that changed and this incident could be the catalyst. If a player sends his tee shot into the gallery without shouting "fore", his next shot should be his third. Within a month, we wouldn't be talking about this.
Then there was the penultimate match on Sunday. It was never going to be a match made in heaven when Brooks Koepka, one of the sport's quickest players, was paired with one of the slowest in JB Holmes. There is no place in golf for a player not to be ready when it's his turn to play. It's gone on for too long and has to be addressed and eradicated from all Tours across the globe.
Slow play is an annoyance to many at all golf clubs. In fairness, JB is not alone, and we know who the main culprits are. It's time to take serious action against the oﬀenders and let this selﬁsh trait be conﬁned to the past.
You may not agree totally with these comments, but you will have rejoiced at the performance of 46-year-old Lee Westwood. Bidding to become the oldest Open Champion since Old Tom Morris, Lee came up short, but his top-four ﬁnish sees him back at The Masters in 2020.
Westwood has had nine top-three finishes in majors without winning one, an unfortunate record. His stellar career has seen him win 24 times on the European Tour and win on ﬁve diﬀerent continents. There are more victories ahead I'm sure.
Heroine of the week goes to his partner and caddie, Helen Storey. That golf bag must have weighed a ton during the rains and winds of Sunday. Together they challenged, battled, and delivered a coveted invitation from Augusta National at Christmas.
Golf's major season is now over until next April, but it's been the fabulous four in 2019. Tiger with a new Green Jacket, Brooks with another PGA and Gary Woodland joining the elite club at famed Pebble Beach, with his chip from the fringe on the 17th a strong candidate for shot of the year.
Yet it will be years before we forget what happened at The Open on the Island of Ireland. Iris, Shane Lowry's charming little daughter, was a picture on greeting her champion dad at the end. Iris's eyes were not the only ones smiling.