Shane Lowry Shoots Incredible 63 to Control Open Championship
Three years after taking a four-shot lead into the final round of the US Open, Ireland’s Shane Lowry has the same advantage heading into the last day of the 148th Open after a sensational performance at Royal Portrush.
Roared on by a huge crowd, Lowry carded an eight-under-par 63 as he tries to become only the fifth Irish winner of the Open after Fred Daly, Padraig Harrington, Darren Clarke and Rory McIlroy.
McIlroy had set the course record of 61 at Portrush as a 16-year-old amateur but Lowry’s 63 established a new one for the revised layout and a birdie on the 18th would have equalled the lowest round in major history set by Branden Grace at Birkdale in 2017.
Lowry’s long-range attempt narrowly missed the hole, but the 32-year-old from Offaly had a huge smile on his face as chants of ‘Ole, Ole, Ole’ rang out from the grandstands.
England’s Tommy Fleetwood is Lowry’s nearest challenger on 12 under par after carding a 66, with JB Holmes two shots further back and world number one Brooks Koepka and Justin Rose seven off the lead on nine under.
“My mind’s still a bit fuzzy,” said Lowry, whose 54-hole total of 197 eclipsed the previous Open record of 198 set by Tom Lehman at Royal Lytham in 1996.
“I really enjoyed today, obviously I played great golf and the crowd were incredible. Every time I got a putt I wanted to hole it and hear that roar again. I said to Bo [Martin, his caddie] walking off 17, ‘We might never experience anything like the next half-hour again, so let’s make the most of it’.
“I just felt so comfortable out there and hope I do tomorrow. I have a tough 24 hours ahead of me, but there’s nowhere I would rather be. I have a four-shot lead in an Open in Ireland. Tomorrow is going to be incredible no matter what happens.”
Asked about losing that four-shot lead at Oakmont in 2016, Lowry added: “I hope I’m going to be able to deal with it better. I know it’s going to be difficult and hard but hopefully I am ready for it.”
With the final groups unexpectedly getting the best of the weather, low scoring was essential and Lowry did not take long to get into red figures, a superb tee shot on the par-three third setting up a birdie from close range.
Lee Westwood believes leading The Open on home soil will intensify the pressure on Lowry “100 times”.
Englishman Westwood shot 70 to take a tie for sixth place at eight under par heading into Sunday’s final round at Royal Portrush.
Westwood expects the forecast driving rain and wind to level up Sunday’s final round, and is anticipating a tough day for Lowry.
“Shane’s in the lead, he’s in a big lead, but no lead is big enough when the weather gets bad on a links course,” said Westwood, who holds a record nine top-three finishes without winning a major.
“And he’s going to have an awful lot of pressure on him hitting in front of a home crowd. So he’ll be nervous, it’ll be a tough long day for him: the last day of a major is always long, but it’s going to be 100 times worse for him.
“I’ll just go out and try to play well. You can still shoot a low score around this golf course. It’s such a good design that even in a really strong wind if you hit good shots you can still make birdies.I’d like to be a bit closer but I’m still in there with a chance."
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