Amateur legend Shane Lowry got a little help from his friend as he kept the faith to escape from hell to golfing heaven with a fairy tale play-off win in The 3 Irish Open at Baltray.


Shane Lowry with the 3 Irish Open trophyThe Clara man, 22, looked to have blown his chances of a dream victory when he missed a five-foot birdie putt on the 72nd hole that would have seen off a dogged Robert Rock.

They finished level on 17 under par after 71s but pal Rory McIlroy grabbed Lowry by the arm as he trudged off and told him: “You’ve still got this! You’re still going to win.”

Lowry gathered himself like a veteran and after dodging a bullet at the first extra hole and then seeing Rock stay alive with a brave ten footer at the second, he proved that 3 really is the magic number when he tapped in from six inches for a winning par five on their third visit to the 18th to become the first amateur to win a European Tour event on his debut.

Cheered to the echo by a massive crowd packed with fans from Offaly - the Faithful County -  Lowry said: “I can’t describe what I am feeling at this minute. I am speechless to be honest.

“I thought I had missed my chance when I missed that short putt in normal play. I was shaking over that putt.

“But I knew I was still in it and it helped that Rory gave me a couple of words as I left the 18th green and that spurred me on.

“I knew he was going to be finished and I actually wondered would he stay around. And when I saw him off the 18th, it was great to see him there and supporting me.

"Rory has just been unbelievable over the last couple of years. To achieve what he's achieved is unbelievable. Hopefully I probably will be seeing more of him in the future.

"I'm feeling shock more than anything. I got an invite here, it's my first tournament and I would have been happy to make the cut.

"But then I shot the 62 and after that I thought 'this is my week - I can win.' And I did!"

Denied the €500,000 first prize because he is an amateur, Lowry could be seeing McIlroy in this week’s BMW PGA at Wentworth if he turns professional today.

It is a safe bet to assume that he will take the plunge but he has time on his side and a Walker Cup cap waiting for him if he is prepared to postpone the move until September 14.

He is entitled to a two year European Tour exemption from the moment he joins the pro ranks but he insisted that he would sleep on that decision last night and wait to talk to Walker Cup skipper Colin Dalgleish.

McIlroy watched the play-off action in pouring rain and sprayed Lowry with champagne after Rock had overshot the 18th at the third extra hole, chipped eight feet past and then missed his par putt.

After watching Lowry tap in for the win, McIlroy said: “Shane can do whatever he wants but I know I would turn pro tomorrow. To come out in your first European Tour event and win is absolutely incredible. Unbelievable.

“I played with him on Tuesday and he played great. He believes in himself 100 percent and now he has got as many wins on the European Tour as I have.

“He’s got the game, he’s got the potential. He’s a tournament winner, he’s got a two year exemption and he’s got a lot of things going for him right now. Why would he want to hang around?”

Just the sixth Irishman to win the Irish Open, Lowry confessed that he was so nervous before the start that he could hardly eat his breakfast.

He said: “I slept very well last night but I was but I was awake at 8.00 this morning, the car was collecting me a half nine but all I had a slice of toast in the house, I wasn’t able to eat any more.

“Then I met (GUI National Coach) Neil Manchip and had a good chat with him in the players' lounge and we had a cup of tea and a bit of breakfast and it was good.

“When I got to the first tee I wasn’t that nervous. I holed a good putt for a par from about five feet and that’s a good putt to start your round with. It gets the confidence level high.”

The rest of the day was a roller coaster of emotions as Lowry - cheered on by his All Ireland winning father Brendan and the rest of his family - produced one of the great final round performances ever seen in an Irish Open.

He snatched the outright lead when he birdied the par-five third before Rock drew level with a birdie at the par-five sixth.

He then bogeyed the ninth and 11th to fall two shots behind and while he felt for a moment that it was all slipping away, he kept the faith and pulled off an unbelievable victory.

Rock bogeyed the 12th and then Lowry birdied the 14th from six feet to draw level and rammed in an eight footer for another birdie at the 16th to move into the lead, punching the air both times.

Rock stunned him by holing a 30 footer at the par-three 17th to draw level again but after missing a four foot chance at the last, Lowry had to suffer for his moment of glory.


At the first play-off hole, the 559 yard 18th, he drove into a fairway bunker, splashed out and then hit an outrageous rescue to 20 feet.

Rock decided to lay up and after pitching to ten feet, he watch Lowry miss for birdie but failed to hole the putt that would give him his first European Tour victory after ten years as a pro.

The second time around Lowry drilled a Harringtonesque 270 yard three wood to 12 feet but saw his eagle putt for victory stop on the lip.

Rock had risked all by going for the green with a driver off the fairway but while he found the sand left of the green, he got up and down and stayed alive by bravely holing from just inside 10 feet.

The tension was unbelievalbe at this stage with Taoiseach Brian Cowan, a Clara native, just another enthralled spectator.

At the third time of asking both men drove onto the spectator track on the right but after laying up it was Rock who cracked first by rifling his 93 yard wedge over the green with Lowry 20 feet away in three.

Rock tried to chip in for birdie but went a few paces past the hole and missed his putt to stay alive.

But he quickly paid tribute to Lowry for his "unbelievable" win before walking away with the consolation of a first prize cheque for €500,000 that sent him rocketing from 50th to seventh in the Race to Dubai standings.

Rock said: "I probably made a little mistake there at the end. I was trying to chip it in and was a little too firm with it. Shane - it's absolutely unbelievable what he's done. So I'm happy for him, yeah. It's good.

"The money is a little bit of a consolation and we got something out of it, haven't we."

Highlighting the key to his win, Lowry pointed to the putts he holed for fist-pumping birdies at the 14th and 16th.

He said: “I said to Neil (Manchip) coming off the 13th green, ‘I’m going to have to hole some putts’ and when I holed that  putt on the 14th it gave me a lot of confidence.

“Robert holed a great putt on the second play-off hole for birdie. But I was happy to see him miss that one on the last.

“I spoke about him having the prize money already to my caddie Dave Reynolds and said, would he ever miss."

The crowd undoubtedly paid a massive part in Lowry's rally down the stretch in a performance that Padraig Harrington would have been proud to match.

Shane said: “The crowd was amazing all day. They were the 15th club in the bag today. Unbelievable. There are no words to describe it. You can’t put it into words."