The 148th Open Royal Portrush
The 148th Open
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What to look out for on Sunday

Shane Lowry leads The 148th Open by four shots but there are plenty of men positioned behind him and raring to make a charge for the Claret Jug.

As scintillating as Lowry’s Saturday 63 was, Open history is littered with big leads being whittled away as the pressure of Championship Sunday tells – from Jean van de Velde failing to hold on to a three-shot lead heading up the 18th in 1999 to Adam Scott bogeying the last four holes to lose in 2012.

With an earlier start scheduled due to an adverse weather forecast, the only sure thing is that nothing will be decided at Royal Portrush until the final putt drops and the new Champion Golfer of the Year can finally be crowned.

With that in mind, here’s what to look out for in Round 4 and the men who are more than capable of spoiling Lowry’s party.

Fleetwood to keep a close eye on Shane

It was understandably overshadowed by Lowry’s 63 but it shouldn’t go unreported that Tommy Fleetwood shot a brilliant, bogey-free 66 in Round 3 to blow everyone in the field bar the Irishman away.

He’s looked poised and composed all week at Portrush – with three rounds in the 60s – and a four-stroke deficit to a man who has never won a major championship is hardly insurmountable.

Fleetwood also has to see playing alongside Lowry in the final group as a positive – he can watch his rival closely and if the Englishman goes on an early birdie run, then the leader will see his advantage slipping away first-hand.

The potential of a two-shot swing on any given hole can quickly eradicate that deficit and if the likeable 28-year-old can feed off the intensity of the crowd, and revel in the role of pseudo-villain that he may be cast in, it could be a fruitful Sunday for him.

Lowry has also admitted that his legs have felt like jelly on the first tee this week, so if Fleetwood has already belted his opening shot down a potentially rain-sodden fairway then that jelly may be even wobblier when the Irishman goes to follow suit.

Brooks lurking

Brooks Koepka has been as good as anyone in the field from tee to green this week, it’s only the putter that slightly let him down and even then, he’s still posted three rounds in the 60s.

The good news for Mr Majors is that despite berating himself in every post-round press conference this week, he’s still in a tie for fourth and ‘only’ seven shots back.

It might sound like a lot but the flat-stick is generally the most likely club to suddenly heat up and with his recent record at majors, would anyone really be that surprised if Koepka goes on a birdie run, starts eating through the deficit and puts pressure on Lowry?

As a reminder, his finishing positions at the last four majors read 1-2-1-2, he’s won four of the last nine he’s played in and come in the top six at three others.

The American is simply a different beast at the biggest tournaments and if he starts to get close to Lowry, the 32-year-old won’t be able to help but look over his shoulder and see Koepka snarling back at him.

Can Holmes crack the case?

Nobody expected JB Holmes to be as impressive as he has been this week but the American veteran clearly enjoys playing in Northern Ireland.

He was at -11 for the Championship through 12 holes on Saturday, and right on Lowry’s tail, before the leader pulled away.

But as the man atop the leaderboard after Thursday and Friday, he can’t be discounted and if the Irishman starts to falter, Holmes could quickly close the six-shot gap that currently exists.

The way he flights the ball means he can cope in bad weather and playing alongside a potentially surging Koepka could help drag him along and keep his dreams of a maiden Claret Jug alive.

Rose and Rickie headline best of the rest

Justin Rose is a major winner and reigning Olympic champion and after a three-under-par back-nine on Saturday, he enters Sunday with some momentum.

At -9, he’s on the same score as Koepka, and after needing a birdie to make the cut on Friday 12 months ago before finishing as runner-up at Carnoustie, the Englishman knows all about Sunday surges at The Open.

He plays alongside Rickie Fowler in the antepenultimate group, teeing off at 1.27pm, and the American – seen as a major champion in-waiting by many – looked sublime while carding a round of 66 on Saturday.

The duo could spur each other on to low scores, while veteran Lee Westwood is at -8 and if he can recapture the form that saw him make three birdies in the first four holes to briefly lead The Open on his own during Round 3, he could still have a role to play.

Bad weather to play a role?

What also can’t be ignored is that Sunday’s start times have been moved earlier – the first group will tee off at 7.32am, while Fleetwood and Lowry go at 1.47pm – due to the bad weather scheduled to hit Portrush.

Conditions on Saturday were still and balmy but Round 4 promises to be a different beast with an adverse weather forecast potentially adding another wrinkle to the pressure-filled 18 holes.

The conditions are also due to worsen as the afternoon progresses, meaning the early starters could enjoy an environment far more conducive to shooting low scores than the later tee-offs.

The group on -7 including the likes of Danny Willett, who shot 65 on Saturday, Jon Rahm and 2017 Champion Golfer Jordan Spieth or even those a stroke further back like Henrik Stenson or Matt Kuchar could set a clubhouse target that proves challenging to surpass.

Nothing is decided yet and we’re set for a day to remember at Portrush.

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