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The 148th Open Royal Portrush

The 148th Open


Super Shane moves four clear at raucous Portrush

Shane Lowry produced the round of his life with a breath-taking 63 that will see him take a four-stroke lead into the final round of The 148th Open.

The Irishman was flawless, with eight birdies and zero bogeys breaking the Dunluce Links course record on this layout by two – while he narrowly missed a putt on the last that would have seen him join Branden Grace as the only man to shoot 62 in a major.

The 32-year-old, who is chasing his first major, will tee off on Sunday at -16, four clear of England’s Tommy Fleetwood – who himself completed a bogey-free round to sign for a 66.

The pair shared the lead for much of the afternoon before Lowry hit the accelerator, sinking five birdies on the back nine and three in a row on 15, 16 and 17 to the backdrop of an atmosphere more synonymous with Glastonbury than golf.

His playing partner and overnight co-leader JB Holmes sits third on -10, while major winners Justin Rose and Brooks Koepka are a shot further back on -9.

However, all three will know they need to play out of their skin on Sunday to stand a chance of catching Lowry – who dashed the hopes of many players with his birdie rampage.

In calm and sunny conditions, the Dunluce Links was ripe was scoring but few envisaged the way the day would pan out.

Former Masters champion Danny Willett was the first to make a significant move as he equalled the then-lowest round of the week to reach -7 with a 65, just one off Lowry and Holmes’ overnight score.

Others made their move too in the early stages of their rounds, Jordan Spieth and Tyrrell Hatton both reached -6, while Fleetwood and Lee Westwood made it a four-way tie at the front by moving to -8.

But around the turn, Fleetwood and Lowry made their move and left the field behind, keeping their powder dry while others dropped shots.

Both reached the turn in 33 strokes, with Lowry ahead by one, and both then birdied the 10th and 12th. It seemed each time Fleetwood, who was in the group ahead, landed a blow, Lowry would follow him on the same hole minutes later.

But where Fleetwood’s putter went cold, Lowry’s reached boiling point. His drives found the fairway, his irons were inch-perfect and he knocked everything in with ease.

A birdie at 15 put him two strokes clear and when he nailed his tee shot at the par-three 16th – a tough hole named Calamity Corner – and drifted it to within six feet, the crowd responded.

The noise grew louder as they became increasingly aware they were witnessing something special and when the putt dropped, it reached fever pitch.

Another birdie came at 17 after another dime of an approach and when he walked down the 18th, he received a hero's welcome from the crowd – with pop songs and football chants audible across the course.

The job is far from done, however, and the weather could well be his biggest obstacle on Sunday  – with rain and wind set to batter the Antrim coast.

The tee times have been moved forward as a result but the rest of the field could well be in play. Behind Koepka and Rose sits Rickie Fowler on -8 alongside Westwood – who had led on his own after three early birdies – while Jon Rahm and Spieth are a stroke further back.

But with a vocal crowd behind him and his game in fine tune, they will tee off in hope rather than expectation.

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