Open Championship: Sky Sports rounds up the big headlines from Royal Liverpool
By Paul Higham Twitter: @SportsPaulH
Last Updated: 19/07/14 7:10pm
It had threatened to be a stormy day in Hoylake, but it was the natural phenomenon that is Rory McIlroy that blew the field away, stretching his Open lead to six shots after a superb third round.
The R&A decision to deploy a two-tee start was criticised by many as players strolled around in t-shirts for most of their rounds, but a huge deluge just minutes after the final groups had finished justified their decision.
McIlroy was certainly a fan, instead of hanging around and possibly having a delay to his round, he was up and out four hours earlier than he would have been and duly responded with two late eagles, handing him a surely unassailable lead.
McIlroy started badly again and was challenged firstly by Dustin Johnson and then by Fowler, who had actually tied him for the lead by the time he stood on the 13th tee. But while Fowler then dropped shots, McIlroy picked up four thanks to eagles on the 16th and 18th. He said pre-tournament that the par fives would be crucial and he’s 11-under for the 12 he’s played so far as he casts an eye on the third leg of his career grand slam.
He’s the only man to finish in the top five of both previous majors this year, and that looks a certainty again as Fowler continues to grow into a real major contender. Those bogeys on 14, 16 and 17 will haunt him overnight though, knowing he could be within touching distance of a McIlroy, but he vowed to try and put pressure on his good buddy early on Sunday.
The two-tee start was historic, and in the end it was probably justified given the torrential downpour that hit Hoylake just after the final groups had finished their rounds. It did offer an advantage to leading players such as McIlroy, who did not have to wait hours watching challengers make a move before going out in worsening conditions, but it was the same for all players. In the end, the way he’s been playing it probably wouldn’t matter either way.
A slimline Darren Clarke shot the joint-best round of the day with his 67 getting him in line for his best Open finish since lifting the Claret Jug back in 2011. The 45-year-old is now lifting weights after shifting the pounds to help his golf, and it looks like it’s paying off judging by Saturday’s round. He was quizzical of the two-tee started but accepted the weather gave the R&A no choice.
Defending champion Phil Mickelson has been a frustrated figure throughout the event, and so it remained on Saturday as he shot just a 71 despite having some great scoring conditions and feeling that even something like a seven, eight or nine-under par round was out there. He’s now set to relinquish the Claret Jug although at least winning it last year helped him accept that sometimes in links golf it’s just not your day.
With no wind forecast for Sunday and a rain-softened Royal Liverpool course, Adam Scott thinks there could be a record round shot in major championships with the perfect conditions for scoring. 63 is the current best, shot a host of times, but could someone better that on Sunday at Hoylake? Scott would need that just to have a chance as he sits ten shots behind McIlroy.
Tiger in trouble
He made the weekend, but Tiger Woods is feeling the pace in what is after all just his fifth competitive round of golf since back surgery. He shot 73 to slip back to three-over and admitted he’s still making too many mistakes despite physically being in decent shape. On the bright side Woods said he is now starting to get back into the flow of a four-round tournament again.
Victor Dubuisson has had a great season so far and looks a sound bet to make the Ryder Cup team for Gleneagles, and he again showcased his game with a third-round 68 putting him on eight-under and looking for a decent finish behind runaway leader McIlroy. In just his fourth major, Dubuisson recovered from an early bogey with a birdie run and sitting in fifth is set for his first big major finish.