HARTFORD, Conn. – Shane Lowry has been a class act on and off the golf course for decades. Whether it’s spectacular play or the wide smile on his face or signing lots of autographs, Lowry has always been a credit to the game.
So it seemed fitting that the amicable Lowry beat fellow Irishman Rory McIlroy and spectacular Spaniard Jon Rahm by a stroke to win the prestigious BMW PGA Championship for the first time on Sunday at Wentworth in Virginia Water, England.
Lowry birdied the 18th hole for a closing 7-under-par 65 and a 54-hole total of 17-under 199 in the DP World Tour’s flagship event shortened by 18 holes because of the death of Queen Elizabeth II on Thursday. Close friend McIlroy, playing in the following group, then left an 18-foot eagle putt hanging on the lip of the cup, giving him 67 and enabling Lowry to win his first title since the 2019 Open Championship.
As McIlroy headed to the scoring tent, he gave a hearty embrace to his frequent Ryder Cup teammate Lowry.
“I don’t know how that missed,” Lowry said of McIlroy’s closing eagle attempt.
“I’m really happy for you,” McIlroy told Lowry.
“You’ve won enough,” a smiling Lowry responded.
“You deserve one,” McIlroy said.
“Cheers Rory,” Lowry concluded.
Two hours earlier, Rahm had made an 18-foot eagle putt on the 18th hole to shoot 62, which included a 7-under 29 on the back nine with a bogey, two eagles and five birdies.
The 35-year-old Lowry was bogey-free over three days at Wentworth and said the victory was for all the golfers who, like him, had rejected lucrative offers from the Saudi Arabia-backed breakaway series LIV Golf. Lowry and McIlroy were both outspoken in criticizing the fact that 18 LIV golfers were allowed to play at Wentworth.
“I wanted to go out and win this tournament for myself, first and foremost, but I think for this tour and everyone that has stayed loyal to this tour,” Lowry said. “I really feel like this is one for the good guys.”
McIlroy and Rahm also rejected the LIV renegades, who included Talor Gooch, who was another shot back in fourth place. Gooch had drawn special displeasure from McIlroy, Rahm and defending champion Billy Horschel because he had never supported the European Tour but took a spot that normally would have gone to a player who had, including a friend of Rahm.
“I said to my coach this morning, `I need to just allow myself to play golf today,’ ” said Lowry, who earned $1.36 million and moved atop the Ryder Cup standings. “I’m playing the best golf of my life. I need to just allow myself to do that, and I did that.”
On the par-5 18th hole, Lowry hit an iron from 242 yards onto the center of the green – a shot good enough to earn an immediate fist bump from his caddie – and then rolled an eagle putt to within a few inches of the hole, leaving himself a tap-in birdie for the lead.
McIlroy had a 14-foot birdie putt on the 17th break just right of the hole. When Lowry then birdied the last hole, McIlroy knew he needed to eagle at the 18th – something he had never done. He came agonizingly close this time.
“It just wasn’t meant to be,” McIlroy, who became the first to win three PGA Tour FedExCup titles two weeks ago. “I thought that putt on the last was in. It just sort of wiggled right on me at the end, but overall, this was another good week. I keep putting myself in these positions. That’s all you can ask for.”
With Tiger Woods basically retired, McIlroy has become the most popular player in the game. Asked what a win at Wentworth would have meant, McIlroy said, “I have won 10 percent of the tournaments I’ve entered as a professional so every win is a big one. But with everything that’s going on around our game and everything that’s happened over the last couple of days it certainly would have been up there as one of the most memorable.
“You know once I had that great finish in the (United) States (Tour Championship victory and FedExCup title), I wanted to turn my attention here and win the Race to Dubai. You know, it would have been great to win it for the fourth time, and I didn’t want to let up. I think if I can play well from now until the end of the year, I keep that momentum I’ve built going into 2023.”
It was Lowry’s first win at Wentworth in his 13th appearance in the flagship event, having finished second to McIlroy in 2014.
“I love it here, I’ve contended in the past,” Lowry said. “The bad shots that I’ve hit over the years in contention actually started to creep into my head. It’s amazing what this game does.”
the one-hole playoff.