Was This Tiger Woods’s Final Trip To St. Andrews?
Five days after describing winning the Open on the Old Course as golf’s Holy Grail, Rory McIlroy will take a share of the lead into the final round of the 150th Championship following a stunning Saturday at St Andrews.
Buoyed by a brilliant eagle from a bunker on the 10th, McIlroy carded a superb third round of 66 to boost his bid to end an eight-year major drought and become the first European winner at St Andrews since Nick Faldo in 1990.
Only a bogey on the famous Road Hole 17th prevented McIlroy from holding the outright lead, with Ryder Cup team-mate and playing partner Viktor Hovland, chasing his first major title, carding a bogey-free 66 to join the Northern Irishman on 16 under.
McIlroy lifted the Claret Jug in 2014 and won his fourth major in the US PGA a month later, but has not won one of the game’s biggest titles since.
Augusta National co-founder and three-time Open champion Bobby Jones famously said that a player’s career would not be complete without lifting the Claret Jug on the Old Course.
And while McIlroy does not think that is strictly true, the world number two was well aware of the significance of winning the oldest major title at the Home of Golf.
“I don’t know if a golfer’s career isn’t complete if you don’t, but I think it’s the Holy Grail of our sport,” McIlroy said in his pre-tournament press conference on Tuesday.
Asked about the significance of winning on Sunday, McIlroy told Sky Sports: “It would mean everything because of what I have been through the last few years, trying to get the fifth one.
“I have a lot of belief in myself, I know I can do it again. I just need to go out in my own little world and shoot a good score that I know I can do around here.”
Australia’s Cameron Smith had been in pole position to achieve that feat after posting a record halfway total of 13 under par, but the world number six three-putted the opening hole and made a double bogey on the 13th as he slipped off the pace.
Even an error-free front nine of 33 – with birdies on the fifth, sixth and ninth – had seen McIlroy a shot behind an inspired Hovland, who had birdied four holes in a row from the third to take over from Smith at the top of the leaderboard.
However, McIlroy then holed out from a bunker short of the 10th green for a stunning eagle to vault into the lead, before Hovland commendably held his nerve to birdie the same hole.
McIlroy found the green in two on the 614-yard 14th to set up another birdie and move into the outright lead, only to then fire his approach to the daunting 17th over the green and off the wall.
The resulting bogey dropped McIlroy back alongside Hovland, who brilliantly saved par from just over the green, with both players then making a birdie on the last.
Smith and Young will start the final round four shots behind after rounds of 73 and 71 respectively, with world number one Scottie Scheffler and South Korea’s Si Woo Kim a stroke further back.
Two-time major winner Dustin Johnson is six shots back following a 71, with Tommy Fleetwood and US Open winner Matt Fitzpatrick on nine under with Australia’s Adam Scott.
“Today when I was having breakfast it seemed everyone was making birdies everywhere,” Fleetwood said after his 66.
“I got a good start, the middle stretch was frustrating but a good finish again. The putts at 16, 17 (both to save par) and 18 feel crucial. I’d love to be in with a chance coming down the back nine tomorrow, but it is very special to still be in and amongst it.”
McIlroy on major experience mattering: “Yeah, I think so. But at the same time those players are playing great golf to be in this position.
“So I’m not going to take anything for granted. I don’t feel like I can fall back in any sort of experience. Just like being here before and I’ve done it. But nothing’s given to you and I have to go out there and earn it just like I’ve earned everything else in my career.
“Certainly wasn’t a lot of chat going on through the last few holes this evening either. But I think it’s the nature of the golf course. And those holes coming in are pretty tricky. And it takes massive concentration as well to sort of navigate them. But, yeah, I’m not adverse to having a chat on the way around. It’s fine. It probably keeps both of us a little loose.
“But you can tell there’s moments when to talk, and moments not to. And that was the case today as well.”
Jack Rathborn16 July 2022 21:45
Rory McIlroy reacts to third round
McIlroy: “I thought it was really good. I missed some opportunities early. Watching Viktor hole a couple of long ones early on. But stayed really patient. Got my first birdie of the day on 5. And I feel like my patience was rewarded around the turn with a couple of birdies and that hole-out on 10.
“But overall, really good day. We sort of fed off each other, and navigated the last few holes well. It was sort of tricky coming in there.
“So, yeah, overall, when you’re a couple off the lead going into the third day of The Open and you go out and shoot a 6-under you’re always going to be pleased with that.”
Jack Rathborn16 July 2022 21:30
Viktor Hovland reacts to taking lead at The Open
Hovland: “Yeah, that was pretty cool. Probably not going to forget that one too quickly. No, I played great, but it was also cool to trade some holes with Rory as well.
“I think we were obviously both kind of doing our own thing. But as we saw, it was still pretty slow out there, and we had to wait on a lot of tee boxes. Yeah, Rory and Harry are good guys, and we chatted it up a little bit. So it was a good mix.”
Jack Rathborn16 July 2022 21:15
Kevin Kisner on stunning Open round at St Andrews: ‘It was a heck of a day’
Kevin Kisner took advantage of favourable conditions to surge up the leaderboard on day three of the 150th Open Championship.
The world number 25, who made the halfway cut on the mark of level par, revelled in the sunshine and lack of wind to make six birdies in a front nine of 30, one off the record in an Open at St Andrews set by Tony Jacklin in 1970.
His luck ran out at the 351-yard 12th as he left his chip short to a wickedly placed front-pin position and it rolled back into a hollow from where he could not get up and down.
But the American made amends with a two-putt birdie on the par-five 14th and picked up another shot on the 16th before carding his second bogey of the day on the Road Hole 17th.
Kisner then three-putted for a disappointing par from the front edge of the 18th green to card a seven-under-par 65 and move into the top 10, although he was likely to slide down the leaderboard as the low scoring continued.
“The bogey on 12 and the par on 18 will eat at me a little bit, but it was a heck of a day,” Kisner said.
The world number 25 revelled in the sunshine and lack of wind to make six birdies in a front nine of 30.
Jack Rathborn16 July 2022 21:05
Tommy Fleetwood hails ‘really cool’ day as momentum builds before last round
The 2019 runner-up carded seven birdies as he moved to nine under par overall heading into the final day at the Old Course.
The Southport player shot a level-par 72 on Thursday but followed up with a 69 on Friday and is pleased with his improvement throughout the week.
“I got off to a really fast start, which I didn’t necessarily need to, but I wanted to, so that was great,” said the world number 35 after a round which began with four birdies in six holes and ended with three more in the closing five.
The 2019 runner-up carded seven birdies as he moved to nine under par overall heading into the final round of the Open
Jack Rathborn16 July 2022 20:55
Shane Lowry annoyed and disappointed as putting problems dash Open hopes
Even back-to-back, pitch-in eagles could not improve former Open champion Shane Lowry’s mood as he was furious his putting has cost him a chance of winning at St Andrews.
The 35-year-old, winner at Portrush three years ago, was one under par for his round – five under for the tournament – when he holed a 43-yard wedge from the left-hand rough at the ninth.
Proving lightning can strike twice he then sank his short approach from 46 yards, this time from the fairway, at the next hole running parallel in the opposite direction.
Lowry eagled the ninth and 10th holes, only for three bogeys to drop him back down the leaderboard.
Jack Rathborn16 July 2022 20:46
The Open 2022: Rory McIlroy reacts to third round
Jack Rathborn16 July 2022 20:37
The Open 2022
Both Smith and Young can only make par on the last, both will begin tomorrow -12 and four off the big two at the top.
Jack Rathborn16 July 2022 20:27
Matt Fitzpatrick reacts to round of 69 to sit seven shots off lead at -9
Jack Rathborn16 July 2022 20:23
The Open 2022
Just Smith and Young to finish up, if they both convert, then Hovland and McIlroy might be looking over their shoulders tomorrow at the top of the leaderboard.
Jack Rathborn16 July 2022 20:21
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