A sensational double eagle finish from Rory McIlroy gave him a six-stroke cushion going into the final round of the British Open as he crushed a chasing pack of challengers who tried and failed to hunt him down during a rain-hit third round.
The 25-year-old Irishman, looking to add a third major to his collection and a first on British soil, started the day with a four-stroke lead.
But it had vanished by the time he reached the 12th hole, and he was caught in a dogfight with American shot-maker Rickie Fowler, hungry to win his first major.
That was when McIlroy, who had been struggling off the tee, produced his best golf of the week at Royal Liverpool.
A birdie at 14 eased him back ahead, and with Fowler going off the boil, McIlroy struck what could prove to be two tournament-winning blows with magnificent eagles at the 16th and 18th.
That put him at 16-under for the tournament six strokes clear of Fowler who had eight birdies en route to a 68.
It was the biggest lead at the third-round stage of the Open since Tiger Woods at St Andrews in 2000. Woods eventually won by eight strokes on that occasion.
McIlroy said that he was unperturbed by the prospect of bad weather and that he had practiced for Hoylake with a links-type of golf in mind.
“I’ve practiced the shots that I might need in windy conditions or wet conditions or whatever it is,” said the world number seven.
“Whatever the weather is tomorrow [Sunday], I won’t mind and just try and play another solid round of golf.”
A further stroke back came Spaniard Sergio Garcia who had a 69 and Dustin Johnson of the US with a 71.
Mickelson’s chances of defending title dwindle
Phil Mickelson saw his chances of defending the title he won last year at Muirfield vanish as he shot a 71 to stand at one under for the tournament, while world number three Justin Rose ended the day at five under after a 69.
World number one Adam Scott had a fine 69, but at six under is too far back to pose a serious threat.
Woods, meanwhile, had another mixed day as he carded a 73 to stand at three over, 17 strokes off the lead.
Published in The Express Tribune, July 20th, 2014.
Like Sports on Facebook, follow @ETribuneSports on Twitter to stay informed and join in the conversation.
Comments are moderated and generally will be posted if they are on-topic and not abusive.
For more information, please see our Comments FAQ