The Open: Shane Lowry confident of closing out Open victory at Portrush
By Keith Jackson at Royal Portrush
Last Updated: 21/07/19 11:50am
Open leader Shane Lowry's assessment of his third-round 63 at Royal Portrush was clear and concise: "That's the most incredible day I've ever had on a golf course."
The Irishman's scintillating form on Moving Day created a virtual party atmosphere around the historic Dunluce Links, with loud cheers and chanting going on long after Lowry had holed out for a 63 at the last to open up a four-stroke lead over Tommy Fleetwood.
Lowry carded eight birdies and kept a bogey-free card as he set a new course record, with the course having undergone a major overhaul since a 16-year-old Rory McIlroy fired a 61 in 2005, and he will hope for a different result than the last time he held the same lead after 54 holes in a major.
The 32-year-old endured a torrid final day at Oakmont three years ago and finished three adrift of Dustin Johnson, but Lowry will again be inspired by vocal home support, who cared little that McIlroy was out of the tournament as they cheered Lowry on during a memorable afternoon in Open history.
"I honestly can't explain what it was like out there," said a delighted Lowry. "I said to Bo, my caddie, walking off the 17th tee, 'We might never have a day like this on the golf course again. So let's enjoy this next half hour'.
"And that's what I did. The crowd was incredible, I just can't believe what it was like but I can imagine it was quite difficult for JB to play with that. But, yeah, I found it okay, anyway!"
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Lowry is wary of the poor weather forecast for Sunday which forced the R&A to bring the final-round tee times forward an hour, but he vowed to stay calm and composed in his bid to hold off the likes of Fleetwood, JB Holmes, world No 1 Brooks Koepka and Justin Rose.
"I know it is going to be a difficult day, and I know there's some bad weather coming in," he added. "But, look, I'm in a good position and I just have to do what I've been doing all year, hit the reset button and go out there and shoot as good a score as I can. And hopefully that's good enough tomorrow evening.
"I thought I dealt with it very well today. Honestly, walking from the green to the next tee, the people are literally a yard away from you roaring in your face as loud as they can. If you have to get up and hit a drive down a tight fairway, it's fairly difficult."
Lowry, who admitted he arrived at Portrush "under the radar" with the majority of the attention on McIlroy, Graeme McDowell and Darren Clarke, also insisted he would learn from his final-day disappointment at Oakmont and use that to his advantage on Sunday.
Third round as it happened
See how a riveting day three at Royal Portrush unfolded as Shane Lowry raced into a four-shot lead.
"I thought I wouldn't have to answer any questions about Oakmont, I'm four ahead going into the final round of a major," he joked at his press conference. "Look, obviously I learned a lot that day, and I learned a lot about myself at Oakmont.
"I'm going to learn a lot about myself here as well. Tomorrow is obviously a huge day in my career. But it probably doesn't mean as much to me as it did then, which is going to make it a little bit easier.
"I think I learned a few things that day about playing in the final round of a major with a lead, that you need to just hang in until the very last minute. You never know what can happen. And I'm going to do the same tomorrow.
"Oakmont was a long time ago. I don't think I'm a much different golfer, but I feel like I'm a different person now. I think that's what will help me. Who knows when I'll be in this position again? It's taken me three years to get back here.
"There's no point in saying to go out and enjoy myself because it's going to be a very stressful and very difficult day. So I'm going to go out and take the bad shots on the chin and I'm going to take the good shots and try to capitalise on them. I'm just going to be myself and play my game and see where it leaves me."
CHANGE OF TV TIMES: Due to the tee times being brought forward, live coverage of the final round will now begin at 7:30am on Sky Sports The Open.