Lowry's Open glory a tonic to Rory's sob story

By Sports Desk July 21, 2019

There was one name on everybody's lips at the start of the week at Royal Portrush - Rory McIlroy.

Cast into a leading role he seemed eager to shun, McIlroy winning The Open Championship on home soil was the story everybody wanted to write, to read, and to talk about for generations to come.

Too bad, then, that he shot a quadruple-bogey eight on the very first hole to slide from pre-tournament favourite to a likely bet to miss the cut.

The incomplete miracle of his stunning second-round revival aside, McIlroy's race was effectively run inside 15 minutes of madness on Thursday.

It left a void at the Dunluce Links that was initially filled by compatriot Darren Clarke, the 2011 Champion Golfer of the Year getting home in even par on an opening day when he had the honour of teeing off first.

But then he too fell before the weekend, a gut-wrenching triple bogey on the last ending his fun.

At least Graeme McDowell made it to the business end of things, giving the sell-out crowd a home hope to lend their significant backing to.

It was no more than a consolation, for sure, but it was still a long way short of filling the McIlroy-shaped hole that had been left by the four-time major winner's shock exit, because McDowell was not threatening to win it.

And, worse still, after two rounds there was an American sharing the leaderboard summit as J.B. Holmes primed himself to complete the first US clean sweep of the majors since 1982.

Something had to be done to keep the Claret Jug a little closer to home. Step forward Shane Lowry, the man with whom Holmes was unwillingly sharing that lead.

A couple of rounds of 67 had the Irishman in the hunt for a maiden major. Here was Royal Portrush's new leading man. 

On Saturday, he lived up to that billing - and indeed went some way beyond it - with a round of golf that he may never surpass.

It read on the scorecard as a blemish-free 63 - impressive enough even by the raw data - but the way in which he came to sign for that number was breathtaking.

He hit 17 of the 18 greens in regulation and when the chasing pack were threatening he accelerated once more, nailing birdies at 15, 16 and 17 despite having made no gains on those holes over the first two rounds.

That run, including a mighty close call with another birdie at the last, worked the Portrush crowd into a frenzy. Where 24 hours prior there had been sympathetic applause for McIlroy's closing par, which sealed his fate, Lowry's tap-in four was met by a deafening roar.

It left him four shots clear heading into Sunday and ‘Lowry!’ chants rang out around the course, which was again packed to capacity when he returned for the final round.

Although he had let a four-stroke margin vanish in a major before, Lowry refused to wilt in abysmal conditions, just as the fans refused to let their spirits be dampened by the wind and rain that so often feel obliged to make their presence known at an Open.

After a 68-year absence from these shores, the return of golf's oldest major to Northern Ireland was never going to be a quiet affair, but Lowry made damn sure of that fact.

He gave the crowd - be they from Northern Ireland, the Republic of Ireland, or frankly anywhere on the planet - something to root for; he gave us that story to write, to read, and to talk about for generations to come.

Now there is a different name on everyone's lips at Royal Portrush – and that name is Shane Lowry.

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    Three wins from 12 league matches have left Tottenham in 14th place, albeit only three points off fifth, while they also lost 7-2 to Bayern Munich in the Champions League last month.

    Four successive top-four finishes and a Champions League final appearance will be Pochettino's lasting legacy and he also oversaw Tottenham's transition to a new, state-of-the-art stadium.

    With the debate sure to continue over whether Spurs have made a harsh call, and plenty of speculation to come over who will replace him, two of our writers argue the case for and against Pochettino's sacking.

    Tottenham have got it wrong - Tom Webber

    Spurs defied expectations under the Argentinian and he underlined his status as an elite manager by leading them to the Champions League final last term.

    While that game ended in defeat to Liverpool and left Pochettino without a trophy, their European run was combined with a fourth straight top-four finish, showing they had a leader capable of taking them to new heights.

    However, their transfer business in the close season was a source of frustration for Pochettino, and he made no attempt to hide that.

    While Tanguy Ndombele was a club-record signing from Lyon and Giovani Lo Celso provided another creative option in midfield, there were no other additions capable of immediately pushing the team forward.

    Spurs let Kieran Trippier go and did not sign a replacement, leaving them exposed at right-back, while Danny Rose was seemingly retained against Pochettino's wishes.

    By failing to give the 47-year-old the backing his work deserved, Spurs have now shot themselves in the foot twice and will only have themselves to blame if things go backwards from here.

    Tottenham have got it right - Patric Ridge

    Given what Pochettino has achieved during his time at Tottenham, the decision to cut ties seems a ruthless one when viewed in isolation, but that would not be taking into account what has been a dismal 2019 for Spurs on the domestic front.

    In this calendar year, Tottenham have taken just 40 points from a possible 90 on offer in the Premier League, winning 11 matches, drawing a further seven and suffering 12 defeats.

    Their poor form was, of course, masked by an incredible run to the Champions League final, but it is easy to forget Spurs were heading out in Amsterdam until Lucas Moura took matters into his own hands in a match that could easily have gone the other way.

    Looking only at their league results this term, three wins from 14 league matches would be enough to get many managers in the top flight sacked. Why not Pochettino? 

    While it is fair to say Tottenham did perhaps not back him as they should have done in the transfer market, the club did spend big. It is hard to imagine he did not have the final say on who was brought in.

    Was a creative force such as Lo Celso, for example, strictly necessary when it was so obvious Tottenham lacked a quality right-back or alternatives up front – weaknesses that were exposed in humiliating fashion by Bayern last month?

    The situation with Christian Eriksen has not helped, but again Pochettino must take his fair share of responsibility; looking back, any players dallying over signing fresh deals – see also Toby Alderweireld and Jan Vertonghen – have been ostracised during his time in north London. Is this the wisest approach when Tottenham have not had the squad depth to be able to cope with key players sitting idly by?

    With the Premier League seemingly wide open – at least outside the top four – this season, Tottenham could not afford to delay any longer and, on the back of a five-match winless league run, they desperately need a fresh source of inspiration.

  • Spurs sack Pochettino: Battle of the Bridge, Champions League comebacks among highs and lows Spurs sack Pochettino: Battle of the Bridge, Champions League comebacks among highs and lows

    Mauricio Pochettino arrived at Tottenham as the club's eighth full-time appointment since March 2001.

    Juande Ramos secured silverware during his tenure, winning the League Cup in 2008, while Harry Redknapp qualified for the Champions League two years later.

    Still, they were the good times. Club legend Glenn Hoddle came with great expectations that fell flat. Frenchman Jacques Santini did not last too long. Andre Villas-Boas failed to pan out. Tim Sherwood did make the gilet popular, but Spurs still decided to dispense with his services.

    Then, in 2014, Pochettino turned up. The former Argentina international had shone at Southampton, quickly dispelling the doubters who felt Nigel Adkins had been harshly sacked.

    There were plenty of positive moments during his tenure, but also some difficult times. Following the news of his departure on Tuesday, Omnisport picks out a few of the highs and lows of Pochettino's reign.

     

    LOW: THE ONLY WAY IS UP

    "There is an abundance of top-class talent at the club and I am looking forward to starting work with the squad," Pochettino said following his appointment.

    However, Tottenham's standing compared to the other big clubs was laid bare in the first month of the new boss' debut campaign. Liverpool were the visitors, with Spurs hoping for the chance to make something of a statement, but Brendan Rodgers' Reds blew them away with ease by winning 3-0.

    It was Spurs' first loss under Pochettino and they went on to miss out on Champions League qualification by six points. 

     

    LOW: THE BATTLE OF THE BRIDGE

    There was no denying Tottenham's vast improvement between Pochettino's first few months and 2016, when they looked to challenge for a maiden Premier League title.

    Crucially, though, when they needed to kick on with the finishing post in sight, the going became too tough. Spurs squandered a 2-0 lead at Chelsea in an ill-tempered London derby to come away with a 2-2 draw, therefore securing a famous success for Leicester City.

    "It was a good lesson for us, we are the youngest squad in the league, we feel very proud and our supporters need to feel proud too, we have massive potential for the future," Pochettino said in the aftermath. Such was their collapse down the stretch, they eventually finished third, 11 points behind the Foxes they had been expected to catch.


    HIGH: SAYING FAREWELL TO THE LANE IN STYLE

    Having seemingly established themselves as top-four regulars, Spurs looked to further consolidate their new-found status by moving to an extravagant new stadium.

    In Tottenham's final outing at the more modest White Hart Lane in May 2017, Spurs downed Manchester United 2-1 in front of a crowd enjoying both their team's success and also the chance to be inside the venue for one final time. A glamourous new era seemed to be on the horizon, with Pochettino steering the Spurs ship expertly.

    The result made sure they went unbeaten at home for the first time in a league season since 1964-65 as they finished in second place. It was a wonderful way to say goodbye to their famous home.

     


    HIGH: UNITED FALL AT OLD TRAFFORD

    In August 2018, Pochettino was among the favourites to replace an under-fire Jose Mourinho at United.

    Pochettino helped inflict more misery on the Red Devils with an emphatic 3-0 win at Old Trafford, a result that also pushed his claims for the job. Kane and a Lucas Moura double did the damage, making it United's worst start to a league season since 1992-93. 

    Yet when Mourinho eventually left United before the turn of the year, Pochettino stayed put. Now a free agent, rumours of a move to the north-west will no doubt grow in the coming weeks and months.


    HIGH: EURO VISION SECURES FINAL SPOT

    After three games of their campaign in Group B, Tottenham appeared on course to slip out of the Champions League. By June, they were appearing in the final.

    Pochettino engineered a remarkable turnaround just to make the knockout stages, where they stunned Manchester City in the quarter-finals thanks to a hotly disputed goal from Fernando Llorente in an eventful second leg at the Etihad Stadium.

    There was more drama to come in the last four, with Spurs scoring three times in the second half in Amsterdam to stun Ajax. Lucas Moura was Tottenham's hero, completing his hat-trick in additional time to seal their progression on away goals. A jubilant Pochettino shed tears during wild celebrations with his players.


    LOW: MISSED OPPORTUNITY IN MADRID

    Admittedly appearing in a Champions League final hardly feels like a disappointment during the Pochettino era.

    Still, there was an air of frustration at how they approached what proved to be a tepid contest in Madrid, with fans bemoaning an apparent lack of attacking intent as a half-fit Harry Kane struggled to make an impact.

    Mohamed Salah's early penalty gave Spurs an uphill struggle and Divock Origi wrapped things up late on. Liverpool had barely made it out of second gear but kept their opponents quiet to prevail in an all-English final that will not live long in the memory. 


    LOW: BAYERN BATTERING AMID HOME STRUGGLES

    Pochettino had hinted he could leave his post prior to the Champions League showpiece, his future seemingly based on the club's progress in the off-season transfer window.

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    293 - Pochettino departs the club fourth on their all-time list for matches as manager, trailing Bill Nicholson (832), Peter McWilliam (505) and Keith Burkinshaw (431).

    54.3 - Only Andre Villas-Boas (55 per cent) has a better win rate in competitive games, counting those to have managed at least 50 matches.

    202 - Pochettino oversaw more Premier League games than any other Tottenham boss to date.

    382 - Spurs earned the fourth-most points in the top flight during this spell, with only Manchester City (446), Liverpool (404) and Chelsea (398) registering better tallies.

    1.89 - Pochettino's points-per-game record in the Premier League is second to predecessor Tim Sherwood (1.91). He had led the way coming into the 2019-20 season.

    169 - Pochettino reached 100 Premier League wins in just 169 matches. Only Jose Mourinho at Chelsea (142) and Alex Ferguson at Manchester United (162) have reached the landmark faster with a single club.

    4 - In Pochettino's five full seasons at Tottenham, they finished in the top four on four occasions. In the prior 22 Premier League seasons, they had only done so twice.

    8 - Last season saw Spurs become the eighth English club to reach the final of the European Cup / Champions League.

    2 - Tottenham lost both of their major finals under Pochettino, suffering defeat in the 2014-15 EFL Cup decider as well as last term's Champions League final loss to Liverpool.

    36 - Despite reaching the final last season, Spurs have conceded more Champions League goals since the start of the 2017-18 campaign than any other team.

    18 - Tottenham's domestic form has been a concern throughout 2019. They have lost 18 times in all competitions in this calendar year, more than any other Premier League club. Their worst calendar years in terms of games lost were 1994 and 1997 (23).

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