Lowry takes four-shot lead into final round as Fleetwood lurks - GulfToday

Lowry takes four-shot lead into final round as Fleetwood lurks

Shane Lowry

Republic of Ireland’s Shane Lowry in action on the 14th hole during the third round of The 148th Open Championship on Saturday. Reuters

Ireland’s Shane Lowry delighted the Royal Portrush crowds as he seized a four-shot lead at the end of the third round at the British Open on Saturday.

The 32-year-old Offaly man shot a hugely-impressive eight-under par 63 for his round and 16-under for the tournament to put one hand on the Claret Jug at Portrush.

Englishman Tommy Fleetwood sits four shots back in second place, with American JB Holmes on 10-under.

World number one Brooks Koepka and former US Open champion Justin Rose are joint fourth on 9-under.

Meanwhile, Francesco Molinari said the tame nature of his British Open title defence at Royal Portrush this week was “bittersweet”, after carding a third-round 72 to slip 18 shots adrift of the leaders.

The Italian came into the week with high hopes of becoming the first player to defend the Claret Jug successfully since Padraig Harrington in 2008, but has not got out of second gear in Northern Ireland.

“Obviously I would have liked to have a better defence of my title, but at the same time you realise that you don’t have the trophy but your name is still going to be on it,” he said.

“So, bittersweet for now, that’s all I can think.”

Molinari had led the Masters heading into the final round in April earlier this year before being usurped by a resurgent Tiger Woods.

And he admitted the extra expectations may have held him back.

“I put too much pressure on me, especially the first day. But it’s understandable,” added the world number seven.

“It’s not easy, obviously, especially the first time and having played well in other majors this year, obviously you come in with the high expectations.

“But you’ve seen it with Rory (McIlroy) and other guys. Golf is a funny game.”

Earlier, overnight leaders Lowry andHolmes teed off for the third round of the British Open on Saturday with the pressure already being applied by the chasing pack on a glorious day at Royal Portrush.

In contrast to the wind and rain of the first two days that saw Tiger Woods and Rory McIlroy fail to even make the cut, sunny conditions made for a low scoring morning.

Xander Schauffele, Henrik Stenson, Danny Willett and Park Sang-hyun made the most of their opportunity to climb through the field to six-under and were joined by world number one Brooks Koepka as he picked up a shot at the second.

Major winners Justin Rose and Jordan Spieth also made early birdies to move to seven-under, whilst Tommy Fleetwood’s birdie at the first brought him level with Lowry and Holmes at eight-under.

On the sidelines, Royal Portrush club professional Gary McNeill said he was just glad he “didn’t hold up” reigning champion Francesco Molinari after he played the British Open third round as a marker on Saturday.

McNeill played with England’s Paul Waring in the first pairing as an odd number of players made the weekend cut.

He had his moments on the Dunluce links too, pouring in a 40-foot birdie putt on the 17th green.

“I looked back a couple of times and Francesco was well behind us. It’s good we weren’t holding him up at any point,” said McNeill.

“It’s just an unbelievable experience to be out there playing on the course with these guys at the same time.” First-tee nerves have got the better of some of the world’s best players this week, with home favourite Rory McIlroy hitting his opening shot on Thursday out of bounds en route to a quadruple-bogey.

And McNeill, who said he shot “probably a 79 or an 80”, admitted he felt the jitters.

“As soon as I took the club back it felt foreign. It was a bit low left off the heel. After that I drove the ball really well. I didn’t miss many fairways after that.

“It was just great fun. So many people. So many of the members are out there, friends and people that we know. So it was great.”

Sunday’s tee times for the final round have been brought forward, meanwhile, due to concerns over adverse weather conditions. The clear skies and light winds that greeted fans at Royal Portrush today are forecast to be replaced by heavy rains throughout most of the final day.

To avoid the threat of delays, tee times are scheduled to begin around two hours earlier than originally planned in the morning.  The opening group of the day are now due to go off at 7.32am local time, while the leaders involved in the final round of the day will now begin at 1.47pm.


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