A couple of back nine wobbles cost Shane Lowry the Alfred Dunhill LInks title but the Clara man’s share of third with Tom Lewis at the Home of Golf has made him even more determined to return to the winner’s circle this season.
While he’s nearly €200,000 richer and up to 28th in the Race to Dubai and 71st in the world, the Carton House pro was utterly gutted to drop two shot and miss a couple of excellent birdie chances in his last seven holes to miss out on a play off by a strokes.
His closing 68 for a 22 under par total left him one shot outside a playoff for the title between American Peter Uihlein and former Ryder Cup star David Howell. Had he won, he’d be a top 50 in the world player today.
“It was obviously a great week for me,” said a plainly distraught Lowry at the finish. “While I’ve been playing good golf for a while, I managed to get the putter going this week and I shot some great scores, and looks like I’m going to fall one or two short of winning the tournament.
“But you can’t really beat yourself up about that. Still going to be a great week, and I’ll get some good Race to Dubai points and World Ranking points, as well. It’s going to be a tough evening this evening if I don’t get into a playoff or if I don’t win, but I’ll keep myself up before I defend in Portugal.”
Howell went on to end a seven-year victory drought by beating Uihlein with a birdie at the 18th, the second extra hole, as Lowry was left to reflect on what might have been.
His week had been a truly memorable one - especially his course record equalling 64 at Carnoustie on Saturday - but he will no doubt learn from the experience of leading one of Europe’s flagship events with seven to play.
Two behind overnight, he got off to a slow start before birdies at the fourth, fifth and ninth left him two shots off the pace.
However, he spectacularly pitched in for an eagle two at the 10th, hitting the pin and then punching the air with his trademark right uppercut as it rattled into the cup to give him a share of the lead on 23 under.
When a 12 footer fell at the par-three 11th to put Lowry one clear of the field, he looked unstoppable. But winning a major tournament on the Old Course with so many huge rewards at stake is no easy task.
After missing a great birdie chance from around 12 feet at the 12th, Lowry showed signs of agitation at the 13th when he hit an average drive, pulled his second into the “Lions’ Mouth” short and left of the green and bogeyed after an average chip.
Opting to lay up at the 14th, he hit a great third pin high to around 12 feet again but again the birdie putt took a detour at the hole and stayed above ground.
You could sense Lowry’s frustration and when he bogeyed the 15th, mis-clubbing or mis-hitting on the crosswind to come up short right, he was under pressure
A sensational chip to just a few feet looked to have salvaged a par but he missed the short putt and title inexorably slipped from his grasp.
He came to the last one behind Howell and Uihlein and hit his second around 15 feet above the hole but never threatened to make three as his birdie putt dribbled away.
Still there were many positives to take away and while the disappointment will linger for a few days, he reckons he is playing well enough to knock off a win in one of the lucrative, end-of-season events and set himself up for a tilt at even bigger things in 2014.
The chip in at the 10th was typical Lowry and the kind of golf that Ryder Cup skipper Paul McGinley might like to have in his side this time next year.
“I was flying,” Lowry said. “I chipped in on 10. Didn’t hit a great chip shot. Just hit the flag and went in. When you do stuff like that, you sort of start to think, maybe it’s going to be my day. But a bit of bad - - you know, the holes in were playing tough and it was going to be tough to play them in par, sloppy bogey on 15 was the costly one I think. But can’t complain really.
“Four rounds in the 60s, a 64 around Carnoustie, what more can I say. I think my golf is as good as it’s ever been, and if I keep doing what I’m doing and doing the right things, I can’t see a win too far around the corner.”
Howell ended a seven-year victory drought and a 100 per cent losing record in play-offs when he followed his 67 with a birdie at the second extra hole to pocket a cheque for €589,561.
It was Howell’s first win since the 2006 BMW PGA Championship, and moved the affable Englishman – whose amateur playing partner was actor Hugh Grant – to 12th place in The Race to Dubai.
Howell, whose wife Emily is expecting twins in December, said: “It’s been an interesting seven years. We’ve talked a lot about the ups and downs of it all, and the downs were really pretty low.
“I lost my way in life and on the course, as well, but obviously it’s a really sweet moment and life off the course life has never been better. To finally win a massive championship really seals things for me. I’m in a very happy place now – it really doesn’t get much better than winning the Alfred Dunhill Links Championship at the Home of Golf.”
Overnight leader Uihlein, who bogeyed the first hole but rallied with four birdies in a round of 69, was understandably disappointed after coming so close to securing the second victory of his fledgling European Tour career, but could console himself with a cheque for €393,038 which moved the American into the top ten of The Race to Dubai.
He said: “Hats off to David, he played great and made a nice birdie on the 18th, so congrats to him. He made more putts than I did at the end of the day, so I’m proud of him. I just didn’t make the putts when I needed to, but that’s the way it goes sometimes.”
Third place was shared on 22 under par by England’s Tom Lewis, whose round of 64 was the joint lowest of the day, and Ireland’s Shane Lowry, who had led at one point but dropped costly shots at the 13th and 15th holes.
Lewis’ cheque for €199,194 guarantees him a place on The European Tour next term, whilst Lowry moves into the top 30 of The Race to Dubai.
The team event was won by Frenchman Thomas Levet and his amateur playing partner David Sayer, who finished on a combined 40 under par.
Levet had also looked on course to walk away with the individual prize after a burst of birdies on the front none, including five in a row from the first, but a double bogey seven at the 14th hole derailed his charge, and he finished in a tie for seventh place on 20 under par.
Darren Clarke showed signs that he’s not far away from his best, getting to within a couple of the lead on 20 under with eight to play before bogeys at the 14th and 15th forced him to settle for a 69 and a share of 12th on 18 under.
McGinley is also playing well and tied for 20th on 16 under after a 67 while Michael Hoey was joint 26th on 14 under after a disappointing final round 73.
Padraig Harrington, who played the second and third rounds in 14 under to make the cut, had 35 putts in a close 71 to end up tied 40th on 11 under.
The Dubliner remains 66th in the Race to Dubai and outside the top 60 who will play the DP World Tour Championship.
Down to 98th in the world, he could fall outside the top 100 for the first time since 1999 as he heads to Bermuda next Sunday to defend the PGA Grand Slam of Golf.
That begin on Monday, preventing him from picking up some crucial world ranking and Race to Dubai Points in the Portugal Masters, where Lowry will be gunning to hold on to his title.
As a three-time major winner, Harrington has no worries about his tour future but there are concerns now for Peter Lawrie and David Higgins.
Lawrie missed his seventh cut in his last eight starts at St Andrews and fell to 111th in the money list, one place outside the top 110 who keep full playing rights for 2014.
Higgins fell three places to 114th and both men will need to make something positive happen in Portugal next week and the final regular season event, the Perth International from October 17-20 to avoid a trip to Q-School in Catalonia in November.
265 D Howell (Eng) 67 68 63 67, P Uihlein (USA) 71 60 65 69,
266 T Lewis (Eng) 64 65 73 64, S Lowry (Irl) 68 66 64 68,
267 T Fleetwood (Eng) 65 66 69 67,
268 G Mulroy (RSA) 66 69 65 68,
269 C Wood (Eng) 66 69 69 65, C Schwartzel (RSA) 68 68 66 67, T Levet (Fra) 68 64 68 69, R Gonzalez (Arg) 67 69 63 70, M Kaymer (Ger) 69 66 63 71,
270 M Madsen (Den) 66 74 66 64, B Wiesberger (Aut) 70 65 67 68, D Clarke (Nir) 69 66 66 69, C Paisley (Eng) 72 62 66 70, H Otto (RSA) 68 63 69 70,
271 S Jamieson (Sco) 71 65 67 68, P Larrazábal (Esp) 70 68 63 70, E Els (RSA) 69 65 64 73,
272 P McGinley (Irl) 70 68 67 67, J Quesne (Fra) 69 66 67 70, D Horsey (Eng) 66 70 65 71, C Doak (Sco) 70 67 63 72,
273 A Cañizares (Esp) 69 65 70 69, J Luiten (Ned) 67 63 68 75,
274 J Walters (RSA) 68 69 70 67, M Baldwin (Eng) 65 70 70 69, S Kjeldsen (Den) 66 66 72 70, J Donaldson (Wal) 65 67 71 71, E Pepperell (Eng) 66 67 69 72, M Hoey (Nir) 68 66 67 73, R McEvoy (Eng) 64 67 67 76,
275 R Ramsay (Sco) 69 70 68 68, G Lockerbie (Eng) 69 67 71 68,
276 A Kaleka (Fra) 64 70 73 69, M Carlsson (Swe) 69 69 68 70, G Storm (Eng) 67 69 70 70, A Tadini (Ita) 66 70 70 70, M Warren (Sco) 70 66 66 74,
277 R Wattel (Fra) 70 70 67 70, E De La Riva (Esp) 67 69 71 70, P Harrington (Irl) 76 66 64 71, G Chalmers (Aus) 68 72 66 71, A Hansen (Den) 71 68 67 71, J Campillo (Esp) 68 71 67 71, G Havret (Fra) 69 66 71 71, A Noren (Swe) 67 72 66 72, M Ilonen (Fin) 68 67 70 72, G Murray (Sco) 65 69 70 73,
278 R Sterne (RSA) 72 70 65 71, S Khan (Eng) 69 71 66 72, B Koepka (USA) 69 66 70 73, G Bourdy (Fra) 70 71 63 74, P Casey (Eng) 74 67 62 75,
279 M Lafeber (Ned) 71 70 66 72, R Finch (Eng) 68 71 68 72, J Hansen (Den) 69 69 68 73, M Foster (Eng) 65 66 74 74,
280 B Grace (RSA) 70 69 68 73, O Wilson (Eng) 64 67 73 76,
281 R Coles (Eng) 72 69 65 75, S Hansen (Den) 69 69 66 77,
282 F Aguilar (Chi) 68 71 68 75, R Goosen (RSA) 70 68 68 76, M Delpodio (Ita) 68 67 71 76, B Åkesson (Swe) 69 68 68 77,
283 J Kingston (RSA) 72 69 66 76,
284 A Wall (Eng) 68 67 72 77