Super-proud Graeme McDowell hailed it “a little Portrush Armageddon” after Shane Lowry iced Northern Ireland’s first staging of the British Open since 1951 with a stirring triumph.
Fans had flocked in record numbers to Royal Portrush hoping superstar Northern Irishman Rory McIlroy would claim the Claret Jug, as he did in 2014 – but not on “home” turf.
If not McIlroy, they hoped McDowell or another local hero, 2011 champion Darren Clarke, who owns a home overlooking the famous coastal links course, would bring the trophy home.
But Lowry, from the Republic of Ireland, proved the next best result as huge roars resonated around the course after his every shot.
“The fans, they put on a show for these players. They treated everyone special. I know they treated Shane like one of their own,” McDowell said.
“North or south of the border, there is no border when it comes to golf here in Ireland. Simple as that.
“It opens up a lot of possibilities going forward.”
McDowell dubbed it “a dream week” for local fans and hopes they won’t have to wait another 68 years to host The Open again.
“I hope we’re coming back soon. There’s whispers we are coming back soon. It would be awesome,” he said.
The word proud just goes in front of the word Portrush. It goes in front of the word Ireland, Northern Ireland.
“Shane, the R&A, everyone involved here at Portrush; the green staff, there’s a lot of pride.”
Not even Sunday’s atrocious wind and rain could put a dampener on proceedings.
“Four days of sunshine. Does that make The Open better? I don’t think it does,” McDowell said.
“The Open Championship, when you read the small print, says the elements are going to be involved and the elements certainly got themselves involved today.
“For Shane to win that under duress, if you like, was extremely impressive.
“They got a little Portrush Armageddon. He’s won it and he’s won it the right way.
McDowell lauded Lowry’s short game as the key to his breakthrough but also said the 32-year-old’s bulldog spirit was underrated.
“Phil [Mickelson] might be the only guy that’s ever come close to this guy’s short game,” he said.
“He’s a special competitor. He’s the most competitive person I’ve ever met and he showed that fight and determination.”
Lowry lost his US PGA Tour playing card last year. McDowell, the 2010 US Open champion, said that “was the best thing that happened to him”.
“It was a wake-up call for him,” he said.
“He went back to Europe and got his confidence back and this is a game of confidence.
“When you’re not playing well, you can get the stuffing knocked out of you very fast in this sport, especially on the PGA Tour.
“It’s very cut-throat.”