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OPEN HEARTED

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SHANE LOWRY'S WIN CAPPED A STIRRING RETURN TO PORTRUSH

IF YOU STAND on the 5th green at Royal Portrush Golf Club and look to the east, you can see the ruins of Dunluce Castle. Four hundred years ago it was the center of Dunluce. The town's streets are now buried beneath the castle and the fields that surround it, but who knows? Maybe next week they will resurface. The British Open's return to Northern Ireland was such a success that anything seems possible.

Golfers gushed about the course. Crowds fawned over the golfers. When 32-year-old Irishman Shane Lowry won the Claret Jug by six strokes on Sunday, it was the perfect ending to a nearly perfect week.

Royal Portrush is supposed to get another Open; the better question now is if it becomes part of the rota. In any event, last week's tournament was a reminder of what a sporting event really can do to redefine a region.

The Good Friday Agreement in 1998 marked the end of the Troubles, though not the end of Northern Ireland's political and religious divisions. The showing at Portrush, however, should shake any lingering notions that the nation is too unsafe to visit. This was as pleasant a sporting event as one could ever hope to attend.

Lowry, who grew up in County Offally in the Irish midlands, is not just from Ireland. He is of Ireland. He has the Irish flag on his golf shoes. He has long carried a ball marker with a shamrock on it. He does not just remember Padraig Harrington winning this tournament twice; he has seen the Claret Jug on his countryman's kitchen table. When Lowry was a kid sinking putts, imagining he won a major, "it was always the Open," he says. His caddie, Bo Martin, is from Belfast.

Afterward Lowry said that this was the best Open he ever attended. It would have been true even if he hadn't won it.

SIGN OF THE APOCALYPSE

A CHESS GRANDMASTER ADMITTED TO CHEATING AT A TOURNAMENT AFTER HIS PHONE WAS DISCOVERED HIDDEN IN THE BATHROOM.

THEY SAID IT

"I KNOW NOW WHAT IT'S LIKE TO HAVE A GREAT ENCOUNTER AGAINST A BEAR."

DIDI GREGORIUS, after restraining Yankees teammate CC Sabathia as benches cleared during a game against the Rays