Shane Lowry's major record was a mixture of missed cuts and one very tormenting close shave. Then Royal Portrush happened. The Irishman is our second contender for NCG's Player of the Year

We were all desperate for an Open champion straight out of the top drawer this year, someone who would do the return to Royal Portrush justice and someone who, whatever our allegiances, we could all get behind.

When you think of Shane Lowry parading his way up the Dunluce Links’ closing hole you can’t help but smile. A week later we were still all smiling and good old Shane and his caddie Bo Martin were still knocking back the Guinness.

We nearly got the perfect weather but we definitely got the perfect winner and everyone now can’t wait for the next Open instalment from Northern Ireland.

Lowry had actually missed his last four Open cuts but, given his magic hands and new-found unflappable nature, this was all waiting to happen.

The Saturday night at Portrush, with Lowry’s 63 lighting up the links, was off the scale in terms of any tournament other than a Sunday night at the Ryder Cup. While he talked to the media about how he probably wouldn’t get much sleep and how he would have to deal with having another four-shot lead going into the final round of a major (remember Oakmont) the whole surrounds of the 18th green and tented village bounced with olé olé olés.

Lowry had a bit of previous with Portrush having lost in the final of ‘The North’ in 2007 before beating Andrew Morris the following year.

“I couldn’t stop thinking about him all week because he shanked his tee shot out of bounds on the 1st. That’s all I could think about on the 1st hole. He’s going to kill me for that.”

There were no opening-hole dramas – both Rickie Fowler and JB Holmes would have to reload on the Sunday – and Lowry was round in 72 in horrific conditions. Given all that was going on it was almost as impressive as his Saturday efforts.

“I let myself think about it on 17, enjoy it, but you’re still hitting shots. Links golf, bunkers, rough, all sorts can happen out there. I let myself really, really enjoy it going down 18. But before that I was really just fighting until the end.”

Earlier in the year Lowry posted his first win for three and half years in Abu Dhabi and it came just 11 days after his fellow Irishman was named the Ryder Cup captain. Given how close they are it no doubt helped play a part in Lowry’s turnaround.

“I sat down at the end of last year to plan out my schedule and I could have got in a few events in America and maybe got an invite here or there but my main goal for the next 18 months is to be on the Ryder Cup team.

“I’m obviously very good friends with Paddy and I’ve never played Ryder Cup, and I really want to at some stage, but to play with him as my captain would be unbelievable. That’s my plan.”