Shane Lowry & # 39; s smile lit Ireland and the entire golf world on Sunday.
For the Irish who lived north of the border, the Open fairy tale would always be a Rory McIlroy victory, but the line of white bets adjacent to the first Royal Portrush fairway sniffed every chance just after noon on the first day.
A hectic Friday 65 left him one short of the cut-line, but if winning was the goal, eight started Thursday and 79 resulted in him far too much to do and making the cut would only have been an opportunity for his admiring fans to watch it another two days.
The two other "locals", Darren Clarke and Graeme McDowell, were too old and not as good as the glory years, so making the triumphant 72nd hole walk was a fantasy for both.
Padraig Harrington, twice the champion and on the other side of the border is, like McDowell, almost ten years past his best, so the hope of the island, north and south, fell on Shane Lowry – a man who defies the idea that golfers must be "athletes" to compete in modern times.
Clearly it's more likely to avoid a gym than a beer, Lowry & # 39; s game is based on a high level of skill, nice hands and a cheerful attitude that is so important for playing good golf.
Of course, not all champions were cheerful on the outside, but on the inside there was often a happy, optimistic serenity in knowing that their methods would probably stand and that they would not defeat themselves with silly mental errors.
A lead of four shots can disappear in no time and it was quite possible that three of them could have disappeared by the time Lowry and the English ball-attack machine Tommy Fleetwood had reached the second tee on Sunday.
Lowry opened with a hook and then a good iron that caught the back of the front bunker and dripped back into the sand. After Fleetwood had torn a disc and a long iron in 10 feet, the leader predictably came out of the deep pot and barely left the putt in Fleetwood's iron.
The implications were clear and sharp. Fleetwood holes, Lowry misses and it is a single shot margin. But it went the other way and Lowry must have felt he had almost taken a shot.
Afterwards it was the turning point.
Koepka had a terrible start, but not as bad as his playing partner Holmes, who eventually made 87 slow strokes for the day.
Koepka held out and played a decent round, but he was too far behind to fight unless Lowry made a mess of it.
He had a bad time taking turns, but saving a three from the sand after a self-conceded 9-iron at the par-three helped 13th, as did his bogey at the difficult hole to follow where Fleetwood & # 39; s double out sniffed his own hope.
The Lowry birdie at the 15th took it and the rest of the road was a joyful procession followed by the traditional coronation of the "champion golfer of the year".
We wonder what to make of the best Australians.
Cameron Smith was decent and headed for 20 after 76 in Sunday's worst weather.
Jason Day bogey five of the last six holes on Friday to miss the cut by a shot and, for such a good player, that is unfathomable.
Marc Leishman and Adam Scott didn't even come close when it was hardly unreasonable to expect them to fight.
Of course, with an Open the draw – good and bad – can have such an impact and perform below expectations is not entirely unknown in professional sport.
Yet it would be hard to imagine Australians having such a poor result in an Open, but it is probably an anomaly because the "Big Three" all have good seasons in the United States.
However, it raises the question of where the next generation comes from and when it will arise. Ryan Ruffels and Brett Coletta have shown signs in recent weeks and both are fantastic looking players. Curtis Luck and Cameron Davis have achieved some decent results on the PGA Tour this year, but unless something dramatic happens in the coming weeks, they play back for their cards in the northern fall.
Min Woo Lee almost accidentally ended the European Tour with some great results after the invitations from some sponsors. His goal was to continue to the Korn Ferry Tour (formerly Web.Com) and earn his PGA Tour status there, but there are things like happy accidents and this is just an example.
Lee is a brilliant player, perhaps as good as his big sister MinJee, and a few seasons in Europe did not harm Koepka.
Neither Lowry, who harks back to an era long gone when golfers really looked like they liked the game and those who were good enough to play with his level of joy in life, were and remain a pleasure to watch.