No longer in the shadows of Irish golf, Shane Lowry now has his name etched on the base of the silver claret jug.

It's on there with more than a century's worth of the best that have conquered the links to win the British Open. Lowry gazed at the oldest trophy in golf as he tried to soak up his storybook finish on Monday at Royal Portrush in Northern Ireland, a course wet first from rain and then from tears.

"I can't believe this is mine," Lowry said after his six-shot victory.

He earned his place with a 63 in the third round that broke the 54-hole scoring record at the British Open and staked him to a four-shot lead.

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And then he handled the nerves and expectations, both in abundance, and never let anyone closer than three shots.

A year ago, Lowry sat in a car park at Carnoustie and cried after missing the cut in the British Open for the fourth straight year.

"Golf wasn't my friend at the time," he said.

And there he was at Royal Portrush, in rain and wind so ferocious that pars felt like birdies, never giving anyone much of a chance as he closed with a 1-over 72 for the largest margin of victory in the Open in nine years.

Lowry isn't afraid to be honest, and he didn't mind telling caddie Bo Martin that he was nervous, scared and worried he would mess up for a raucous, rollicking crowd that wanted nothing more than to celebrate with him.

"I suppose I didn't even know going out [on the final round] if I was good enough to win a major," Lowry said. "And look, I'm here now, a major champion. I can't believe I'm saying it."

So many others in the Irish golf community can. Graeme McDowell recalls a story from famed swing coach Pete Cowen, who long ago travelled to Dublin to scout the Irish boys' golf team. They were curious about his views on the obvious star — a teenager named Rory McIlroy — except that Cowen saw more.

"The guy said, 'Who do you like?' And he said, 'Rory McIlroy looks pretty good, but that slightly overweight kid with the glasses ... he looks good'," McDowell said. "So he's always been talented."

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That kid was Lowry, so talented that he was still an amateur 10 years ago when he won the Irish Open at County Louth.

McDowell remembers something else about that Irish Open, the first time he met Lowry.

"I just shot 61 at Baltray, and he came in and shot 62," McDowell said. "And he didn't even introduce himself. He said, 'I can't believe you beat me by one out there.' And I'm like, 'Who's this kid?'"

That kid is now "champion golfer of the year". Lowry could barely contain his joy when he rolled in an 8-foot birdie putt on the 15th hole for a six-shot lead with three to play. He knew it was over when he found the fairway on the 17th because "I knew I could really lose a ball from there".

"The one thing you want to do is back up your success," Lowry said. "In the short term, I'm going to enjoy this. My big goal still remains the same, and that is to be on the plane going to Whistling Straits next year [for the Ryder Cup]."

- AP