The 148th Open Championship concluded on Sunday without much drama, but with a lot of fanfare. Here’s the good, the bad, and the club-tossing from the weekend.
Winner: Shane Lowry
The most memorable part of Shane Lowry’s swing routine isn’t his “pinky’s up” grip, which was the one NBC’s cameras isolated throughout this Open Championship (and the internet made plenty of jokes about). It’s not his near-full-body contortion on his follow-through, either, though it’s certainly entertaining to watch a professional golfer look like he’s about to topple over every time he hits a shot. Instead, it’s his post-shot grimace.
Lowry’s grimace doesn’t usually signal any kind of displeasure—except at the ninth hole on Sunday after a bogey putt dropped him back to minus-16 and cut his lead to just five. Instead, the Irishman bears his teeth in concentration, and the expression is a facial tick away from turning into his signature, full-faced smile. That razor-thin difference mirrors the situation Lowry found himself in on Sunday. He entered the Open Championship’s final round with a four-shot lead, the same margin he led by on Sunday at the 2016 U.S. Open. And while that tournament ended in a genuine Lowry grimace—he shot a 76 and lost to Dustin Johnson by three strokes—this time around, the Northern Irish crowd saw quite a different facial expression.
Lowry won his first major championship and finished minus-15 and six shots clear of Tommy Fleetwood, his next-closest competitor. That margin of victory was the largest of a first-time major winner since Rory McIlroy won the 2011 U.S. Open at Congressional by eight. And speaking of McIlroy: Lowry may not be from Northern Ireland, but after McIlroy missed the cut and Graeme McDowell fell off pace, the crowd cheered Lowry on as if he was their own. “Home games” in golf are notoriously difficult, but Lowry showed that sometimes, they can provide really beautiful scenes.
Loser: Three-Round Tommy
Tommy Fleetwood has been “on the verge” for some time now. He’s no Lee Westwood, who has had close major championship finishes for 22 years and has never won, or even Rickie Fowler, who’s been in the hunt since 2014. But since his fourth-place finish in the 2017 U.S. Open, he’s been a prime breakthrough candidate.
This year, though, despite his driving ability and gains made in ball striking, he’s had a hard time pulling his game together for four consecutive rounds. At the PGA Championship, he was even par through the first three rounds (which would have been good for a T-7 finish) and then went eight-over on Sunday. At the British Masters in May, he entered the final round just three shots back of the leaders but shot a 73 on Sunday. He came close to winning the Arnold Palmer Invitational in March, though a final round 68 couldn’t overcome the 76 he shot on Saturday. And of course, Fleetwood was one shot back of Jon Rahm coming into Sunday of this year’s Players Championship—then he went one over par on the day and watched McIlroy take the victory.
The Open Championship wasn’t much different. Sure, Fleetwood came into Sunday with a near-impossible task—trying to make up four shots on a guy who’d already set a 54-hole tournament record and had the crowd behind him. But with wind and inclement weather in the forecast, he certainly had a chance. Then he missed a pair of makeable birdie putts on the first two holes, bogeyed the par-3 third, and his window seemed to close before it even really opened. Fleetwood finished plus-3 on the day, and he’ll leave Northern Ireland with another missed opportunity on the books.
Winner: Brooks Koepka, Pace Police
Koepka came into Sunday’s round dressed like a hall monitor, and as his game fell apart he started acting like one, too.
All season Koepka has been advocating for more strongly enforced pace of play rules. In February, he told Danny Kanell on Sirius XM radio that “no one ever has the balls to actually penalize” players for slow play; the month before, he told Golf Monthly’s Michael Weston, “I just don’t understand how it takes a minute and 20 seconds, a minute and 15 to hit a golf ball; it’s not that hard.” Koepka has given plenty of other quotes like that as the season has gone along, but suffice it to say: Brooks likes playing fast. On Sunday, though, he got partnered with J.B. Holmes, one of golf’s slowest players, and things did not go smoothly.
Brooks opened his round with four straight bogeys, so tensions were already high. Then the rails started coming off for Holmes, too. He double-bogeyed the first, had four other bogeys on the front 9, and made a triple at no. 11. So by the 12th hole—which Holmes doubled— Koepka had had enough. Golf Channel’s Will Gray tweeted that as Koepka walked off the hole, he looked at an official and made a gesture toward a “non-existent watch” on his wrist. He also made this face:
Then, in his post-round interview, Koepka went off about his experience playing with Holmes: “When it’s your turn to hit, your glove is not on, then you start thinking about it. That’s where the problem lies. It’s not that he takes that long. He doesn’t do anything until it’s his turn. That’s the frustrating part. But he’s not the only one that does it out here.”
Normally I am not one to encourage people to rat on each other, but at an Open with such little in the way of Sunday drama, Koepka’s ongoing frustrations with Holmes provided amazing levels of entertainment. So Brooks, keep doing you.
Loser: Jordan Spieth, Possibly Being Usurped?
OK, this is purely wild speculation, but we don’t get another Ryder Cup for almost a year and a half so just give me this one. Patrick Reed and Justin Thomas played together on Sunday, and midway through their round, NBC showed the two fist-bumping on a green. In almost any other pairing this would not be a big deal, but these two have history.
A brief refresher: Reed and Spieth were highly successful Ryder Cup partners, going 4-1-2 during the 2014 and 2016 tournaments. But last fall, Thomas made the team and he and Spieth paired up. Reed wasn’t pleased about this (because he’s rarely pleased about anything), and he ranted against the decision in an interview with The New York Times after the event.
Fast forward to this weekend, and it appears JT and Reed have buried the hatchet. Is it likely that Spieth has any concerns about that? No. But is it fun to imagine? OF COURSE.
JT and Reed fist-bumping is like when your ex and current significant other awkwardly end up in the same place and start hitting it off. pic.twitter.com/eRrOrPML6h— Brendan Porath (@BrendanPorath) July 21, 2019
Winner: David Feherty’s Analogies
NBC golf analyst David Feherty is the king of one-liners. Some past examples have included, “That ball is so far left Lassie couldn’t find it even if it was wrapped in bacon,” and “Never has my flabber been so completely gasted.” On Sunday, he added another gem to his list.
While describing Reed, who was playing out in a swirling rainstorm without a jacket or any protective gear, Feherty said that Reed must have “the disposition of a harbor seal” to not want to put on a raincoat. Please never take David Feherty off golf broadcasts.
Loser: Henrik Stenson’s Clubs
When Patrick Reed broke a club over his knee following a poor shot at this year’s U.S. Open, few were surprised—least of all his caddy. Reed is known to have a temper and video of the incident went viral not because of Reed’s reaction, but because of the nonchalance his caddy used when handing him a new club.
On Sunday, though, a relatively shocking figure joined Reeds club-snapping ranks: Henrik Stenson. Frustrations were high at Royal Portrush, as the weather that had threatened all weekend finally hit, and almost everyone in the afternoon tee times suffered. Stenson was plus-three on the day by the time he hit the 17th tee box, and after he flew his shot over a fence near the hole’s grandstand, the usually calm and collected, Hugo Boss-wearing Swede couldn’t take it anymore.
He went on to bogey the hole and finished plus-five on the day and 14 shots back of the leader. Though I guess the silver lining is that the score was still good enough to give him a top-20 finish.
Jason Day will be conducting Rorschach tests in the Portrush clubhouse after his round today for anyone who wants to participate. pic.twitter.com/kWGq41VmnC— Kyle Porter (@KylePorterCBS) July 18, 2019
I mean, really?