The Open Championship is underway! Here's your complete roundup of the third day.
Overstatement? Perhaps. But perhaps not. Consider that after his exceptional 4-under 68 on Saturday, which put him at 12-under for the Open Championship and six strokes ahead of the field, McIlroy is in position to shoot 20-under for a major championship. That's never been done by anyone in history. (And remember, this is the same player who won his two majors by eight strokes each.)
For the first 12 or so holes on Saturday, a day hastened by the threat of rain, McIlroy looked anything but immortal. And a host of challengers, most notably Rickie Fowler, were trimming into his pre-round four-stroke lead fast. Very, very fast. It looked, for a time, like McIlroy would surrender, or at least fight for, the lead he'd built over two days.
Consider the following scorecards. Here's Fowler:
And here's McIlroy:
When Fowler was standing on the 14th tee, he was tied with McIlroy, who had just bogeyed the 12th. But from there, McIlroy floored it. He went 4-under over the final five holes while Fowler was going plus-2 over the same span, opening up the six-shot lead. Boom. Done. Call the engraver.
Other players turned in decent efforts, of course. Sergio Garcia may have the misfortune of playing a round capable of winning a major when he's against an otherwordly competitor. Jim Furyk, too, has carded some exceptionally strong golf. But on Saturday, it was all Rory, and that means Sunday's going to be a significant day indeed.
Whatever happens, he'll make some sort of history. If he wins, he'll have three legs of the career Grand Slam in his pocket by age 25, something only two others have accomplished – Jack Nicklaus and Tiger Woods. If he loses, well, he'll become the first player ever to gag a six-stroke lead heading into the final round.
Yes, this could be 10 different kinds of a jinx, but no golfer has ever surrendered a six-shot lead going into Sunday at the Open Championship. Two players have been five ahead and gagged: Jean van de Velde in 1999 and Macdonald Smith in 1925, but you knew that. Adam Scott was four up in 2012 when he shot four straight bogeys on the final four holes, a fact which you can bet will be mentioned often on Sunday.
Take your pick from any of the dozen or so shots in McIlroy's final charge. We take his long putt on 16, which dropped for an eagle and opened up a huge lead on the field. McIlroy never seemed particularly wobbly throughout his round, but the eagle on 16 put the field in the rear-view mirror.
All I have observed from this golf tournament thing is that Tiger Woods' shirt is absolutely awful. And many, many innuendos.
— Hannah Whitten (@HannahWhitten91) July 19, 2014
Judge for yourself:
All of 'em. The poor souls had to sit through rain in the early morning and rain after the round, but fortunately the round itself went off with little impact from the weather. Lovely matching ponchos, lads.
This photo gives you a sense of just how tricky the rough can be at the Open Championship. McIlroy didn't lose this ball, but one false move on Sunday and the rest of the field can be ... well, within four strokes.
"I feel I am equal to the task." - Rory McIlroy
It's impossible to overstate how much hype would surround McIlroy if he were to win on Sunday. He knows that. He understands what he has to do, and understands what it feels like to fail in the clutch. Soon enough, he'll have his chance to prove himself worthy of the game's greats.
And that's a wrap for Day 3. Thanks for hanging with us! Come on back tomorrow for more!