Lowry made eight birdies and no bogeys on Saturday to post a 63 and take firm control of the Open. 

By Daniel Rapaport
July 20, 2019

Shane Lowry slept on the lead Friday night, knowing he was the fan favorite at Royal Portrush, fully aware of the slew of world-class players hot on his heels. 

How did he respond to that pressure? With the round of his life. 

The Irishman made eight birdies and no bogeys to post an eight-under 63, a dream-like round that saw him take firm control of the Open Championship.

"My mind’s a bit fuzzy at the minute," he told NBC after the round. "Obviously I’ve just had an incredible day on the golf course.”

At 16-under, he will enter Sunday's round with a four-shot lead over Tommy Fleetwood, who shot a bogey-free 66 and lost three shots to the lead. Tough game.

Lowry's three-day total of 197 is the lowest anyone has ever been after three rounds in the 150-plus year of the Open. 

J.B. Holmes birdied the 18th to reach 10-under total, solo third. Brooks Koepka (67) and Justin Rose (68) were in a tie for fourth at 9-under, a full seven shots back. Rickie Fowler (66) and Lee Westwood (70) were a shot further behind at 8-under.

They're all looking up—way up—at Lowry, and his legion of adoring fans.

After Rory McIlroy's furious charge to make the cut came one shot short on Sunday, it was clear that the Northern Ireland crowd was pulling for Lowry, who is from south of the border but has been treated like a native son all week. It was no different on Saturday; his roars were louder than anyone else's on the course, and he gave them plenty to cheer about. 

He started the day in a tie for the lead with J.B. Holmes, the 32-year-old parred his first two holes before making his first birdie of the day at 3. He added birdies at 5 and 9 for to turn in three-under 33. 

That's when things reached another level. 

Lowry birdied 10 and 12, then made three straight birdies from 15-17 to distance himself from the field.

He hit two perfect shots on 18 and was serenaded by chants of "ole, ole" as he walked up the finishing par 4. His 25-footer for birdie and 62, which would have tied Branden Grace for the lowest round in major championship history, just barely missed on the low side. 

This will be the second time Lowry has entered the final round of a major with a four-shot advantage. He led the 2016 U.S. Open at Oakmont by that same number before closing with a bitterly disappointing 76, which saw him finish tied for second, three shots behind Dustin Johnson. 

He'll be hoping for a different result on Sunday, when he chases his first major championship just 80-or-so miles north of where he grew up. The forecast, which calls for wind and rain virtually all day, forced the R&A to move tee times up an hour. Those conditions, plus the pressure that comes with playing with the lead, will make his task anything but routine. Bt if he plays anywhere near as well as he did on Saturday, he just might be in for a special afternoon. 

“Look, very excited for tomorrow," he said. "Four ahead, at the Open Championship, in Ireland. I don’t know what to say.”

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