The 148th Open Royal Portrush
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England's Tommy Fleetwood faces stern test to catch Shane Lowry at Portrush

Fleetwood: Portrush atmosphere 'great for the sport'

Even after carding a bogey-free 66 in the third round, Tommy Fleetwood has his work cut out for him if he's going to catch Open leader Shane Lowry

By Will Gray

Facing an uphill battle to catch Shane Lowry at The 148th Open, Tommy Fleetwood remains ready for a challenge.

Fleetwood shot a 5-under 66 in the third round at Royal Portrush, playing under major championship pressure without dropping a shot. It’s a performance that at the start of the day seemingly would have given him a great chance to get his hands on the Claret Jug, but after Lowry’s scintillating performance in the group behind him Fleetwood is staring at a four-shot deficit.

But that's no reason for panic in the mind of Fleetwood, who was more pleased with his 54-hole performance than intimidated by the task that now lies ahead.

“It was a very special occasion and a great day to be playing golf today. Happy to be in the mix,” Fleetwood said. “Happy to be a part of it, happy to play my part in the atmosphere today.”

Tommy Fleetwood

Fleetwood’s part included three birdies over his first seven holes, and he drew level with Lowry at 12 under heading to the 13th tee. While that would prove to be his final birdie of the day, he’s still two shots ahead of third-place J.B. Holmes on a leaderboard that thinned out considerably as the afternoon progressed.

“Put it this way, it will be a very, very good effort if it’s me, and if it’s not me or Shane, it will be a very, very good effort for somebody else,” Fleetwood said. “We’ll see how it goes.”

“It's going to be another chapter in my career, no matter what happens. And it's going to be a very special day. ” tommy fleetwood

Fleetwood was one of the stars of the European Ryder Cup team last year, and he notched a pair of top-5 finishes on the PGA Tour in March. But he’s saved some of his best golf of the season for Portrush, where he’ll have a spot in Sunday’s final pairing in search of the biggest win of his career.

It’s a tantalizing opportunity, even though he knows the partisan crowds will be supporting his playing partner.

“If you had said at the start of the day today, at the start of the week, at the start of the year … I’m in the last group Sunday at The Open and playing with Shane, and the majority of the crowd might not be with you, I would have said, ‘Yeah, that’s fine,’” Fleetwood said. “I’m looking forward to it, to be honest with you. It’s going to be another chapter in my career, no matter what happens. And it’s going to be a very special day.”