The Open: Shane Lowry finally set to hand back ‘straightened’ Claret Jug

Lucky old Claret Jug. Yeah, it may have been dented during the time it’s been in his possession, but just imagine how much fun it has been spending 24 months with Shane Lowry. If only that iconic piece of silverware could talk.

Shane Lowry gazes at the Claret Jug after his win the 148th Open at Royal Portrush in 2019. Picture: Andrew Redington/Getty Images.
Shane Lowry gazes at the Claret Jug after his win the 148th Open at Royal Portrush in 2019. Picture: Andrew Redington/Getty Images.

“We had an amazing time with it,” admitted the jovial Irishman as he reflected on his extended spell as The Open champion due to last year’s scheduled event having been cancelled due to the Covid-19 pandemic and put back 12 months.

That was especially the case in the immediate aftermath of Lowry winning the game’s oldest major by six shots in 2019 on the event’s much-anticipated return to Royal Portrush, a memorable occasion watched over the course of the week by close to 240,000 spectators.

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“I did put a few drinks in it, but not that much,” added the Clara man. “We filled it a couple of times afterwards, and then we actually had a nice dinner with all my team that Christmas, when we drank some nice wine out of it.”

Shane Lowry celebrates with his caddie Brian Bo Martin after his six-shot success at Royal Portrush. Picture: Andrew Redington/Getty Images.

He’s also enjoyed sharing it with others. “When you have the Claret Jug with you and somebody that's really interested in golf or somebody that really loves their golf, when you show them that piece of silverware…..

“There's one story I remember. I had the Claret Jug with me at the Race to Dubai at the end of 2019 and I was wheeling it through the hotel, and this guy was there and he stopped me, and he's like, ‘is that the Claret Jug?’ And I was like, ‘yeah’, and we started to talk.

“Next thing, he begged me could he see it, so I opened up the box and I showed him and he held the Claret Jug and he started to cry because he was holding the Claret Jug. That's what that trophy actually means to people that love their golf.

“Just to have it in my possession for that length of time and being able to kind of share it with all my friends and family and other people has been just incredible. Obviously I've got my replica now as well and I'll have that forevermore, but it'll be a sad time giving it back. But hopefully I get it back at some stage, whether it be St George's this year or maybe another time down the road.”

Sitting alongside Lowry at the Irish Golf Writers’ Association annual dinner at Portmarnock Links in December 2019, it was impossible not to notice that the trophy sitting in front of us in the middle of the table had a tilt.

“It has been sent back to be straightened once, yes,” confirmed Lowry, laughing. “Going through the airport, I noticed on the scanner that it had a little bit of a bend in it. It's not just me. I did talk to (2005 winner) Zach Johnson about this and he told me that he bent it, as well, so it's not only me.”

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Martin Slumbers interview: Golf chief on cancelling last year’s Open, the return...

Lowry was just starting to gear up for his title defence when the R&A took the decision last April to cancel the 2020 edition. It left The Open as the only men’s major that wasn’t played last year, but chief executive Martin Slumbers remains adamant that it was the right situation due to the pandemic.

“When I first heard the news, I was very disappointed, obviously. Selfishly, I was disappointed not being able to go to the likes of the Irish Open and play in front of the crowds as The Open Champion, stuff like that. But I didn't pack the trophy away in July and sort of say, ‘that's my year over’. I still had it there or whatever.

“Everyone had to take tough decisions last year, and the R&A obviously and Martin Slumbers had to make the decision. I'm sure it was probably one of the toughest decisions he's ever had to make.

“When we're back there at St George's next week with people watching and hopefully us top golfers performing to the best of our ability, it'll be all worthwhile. I'm going to get the upside of defending in front of a few people this year.”

Padraig Harrington, Lowry’s big mate, was the last player to make a successful Claret Jug defence at Royal Birkdale in 2008. Lowry will have to overcome a painful memory from Royal St George’s if he is going to emulate that feat.

“I played the Amateur Championship in 2006 there and I shot 81 in the one round that I played around there, and I haven't been back since,” he revealed. “Obviously I watched Darren [Clarke in 2011] win his Open there, and I know it's one of the trickiest venues we have, especially if you get a good UK summer.

“It's so far south that it can get firm and fast and play like proper links golf. So it'll be a great test. Just the whole experience of going there as defending champion, I'm really looking forward to it.

“It's obviously going to be a new experience for me because I've never got to defend a major championship before, and it's going to be really exciting. I'm going to be disappointed to be giving back the Claret Jug, but hopefully I'm only giving it back for a few days.

“It feels like it's a long time since Portrush. Everyone is just looking forward to going back and playing The Open Championship again, because, in my opinion -- it's one of our greatest championships, if not the greatest. So just to get back there and play that will be great.”

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