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The 148th Open Royal Portrush

The 148th Open


What they said on Day 3

It is unlikely The Open has ever experienced anything quite like this balmy Saturday, when Shane Lowry took its 148th edition by the scruff of the neck and made birdie after birdie to the sound of football songs and raucous chanting.

His 63 – which gives him a four-stroke lead heading into the final round – was the finest round this version of the Dunluce Links at Royal Portrush has ever witnessed.

But he was far from the only story out there and there was plenty for the field to reflect on.

Here is the best of what they said:

Love Island Lowry

Where else to start?

Shane Lowry is going to be on the back page of every paper, the lead of every bulletin and the word on everyone’s lips from Portmagee to Ballycastle.

So how is he going to handle the pressure?

“I would be lying if I said I won’t watch Love Island. We've got a good Irishman in there,” he joked.

“To bring myself down I watch myself on TV, I watch the highlights on BBC. We have a house this week, my wife and kid and my coach and a couple of friends are there. My brother is here tonight. We just do the same thing we do every night, watch TV.”

Sounds like a pretty normal night in then, but it was far from a normal day.

“That's the most incredible day I've ever had on the golf course. I honestly can't explain what it was like,” he added.

Tommy soaks it in

Tommy Fleetwood won’t be the pantomime villain but there is no doubt Shane Lowry has the support of the locals – but he insists it won’t bother him.

The Englishman is one of just four players to hit three rounds in the 60s and he can’t wait to sample the Royal Portrush atmosphere on Open Sunday.

“It was great. I've just been saying on the way down here, I think people watching today, if they're not into golf, I think it's amazing for the sport,” he said.

“The tournament has done itself proud. They've shown how great the game is and how good it is to watch.

“The atmosphere for us as golfer was just great. I loved it. For or against you, you can't help but appreciate and love what today was and what tomorrow is going to be.”

Oh Danny boy

Three years on from his Masters win and Danny Willett is back to his best and competing for majors again.

The Englishman shot a superb 65 and, although it was eventually overshadowed by Lowry’s brilliance, the Yorkshireman insists he is back to his best.

“We're in a really good place. I've said it for the best part of 12 months now. The results aren't always as you want them to be, but the work I'm putting in is good,” he said.

“Things are inevitable as to when you're going to win again. It might be this week, next week, six months down, we don't know.

“But there's enough good in there to do it again, which is a nice feeling. It gives you that little bit of sunlight at the end of it.”

Coiled Brooks

He may be seven strokes back but Brooks Koepka can never be ruled out and the American is hell-bent on putting a run together.

The four-time major winner has played like a dream between tee and green but his putter has let him down all week.

Still, Sunday is another day and with another round of knowledge in the bank, expect him to charge.

“Seven back, that's the way I look at it. It's been disappointing. It's just not the week I've been looking for - not the week that I've expected,” he said.

“But at the same time, there's one more round, so I need to figure it out.”

Gary’s day in the sun

The only person who could legitimately claim to have had as good a day as Shane Lowry is Gary McNeill – the Royal Portrush Head Professional, who played as the marker alongside Paul Waring.

McNeill had always dreamed of playing in The Open and that moment arrived at a little before 10am.

“It's crazy. It really is. I've kind of been preparing for it in the back of my mind for a long time. But when you get the call up it's nuts,” he said.

“I slept okay last night, actually. I was up early and ready to go. I hit a few balls on the range this morning, I hit them quite well.

“I kept good pace and hit the ball well off the tee and hit some decent shots. The putter was a bit jiggy early on, but other than that it was okay.

“Great fun. Paul was lovely to play with, I have to say. He's a great guy.”

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