Shane Lowry dreamed of winning the Open as a child. He never dreamed he would do it in Ireland. Alex Perry wraps up the action

2019 Open report: What happened on day 3?

Surely only painful memories can stop Shane Lowry from claiming the Claret Jug now.

The Irishman was absolutely irresistible as a course-record 63 pushed him four shots clear of Tommy Fleetwood at 16-under.

It is the same lead he held at the US Open at Oakmont three years ago, when his advantage evaporated in a final round 76.

But playing in front of incredible and partisan support at Royal Portrush, Lowry has looked inspired for three days and even Fleetwood, who shot 66, is struggling to hang on to the home favourite’s coat-tails.

Reaching the turn in 33, after birdies at the 3rd, 5th and 9th, Lowry hit an incredible shot out of the left rough from 193 yards at the next – using the bank on the side of the green to run it towards the hole for another birdie.

More came at the par 5 12th, 15th, 16th and 17th and he had a putt at the last to tie the men’s major scoring record of 62 – posted by Branden Grace at Royal Birkdale two years ago – but it was fractionally left.

2019 Open report

Lowry said: “That’s the most incredible day I’ve ever had on the golf course. I honestly can’t explain what it is like.

“Walking off the 17th tee I said ‘we might never have a day like this on the golf course again so let’s enjoy this next half an hour’. That’s what I did.

“The crowd were incredible. I just can’t believe what it was like.”

Addressing the spectre of Oakmont, he said: “I learned a lot that day and learned a lot about myself. I am going to learn a lot about myself tomorrow.

“It’s a huge day in my career but it probably doesn’t mean as much to me as it did then, which is going to make it a little bit easier.

“I think I learned a few things that day about playing the final round of a major and you need to just hang in til the very last minute.

“You never know what can happen and I’m going to do the same tomorrow. It’s a long time ago and I feel like I am a different person.”

Fleetwood, bidding to become the first Englishman to win the Open since Nick Faldo 27 years ago, produced an array of impressive shots as he finished on 12-under – birdies coming at the 1st, 5th, 7th, 10th and 12th. It was a bogey-free effort but he still lost ground.

“I’m looking forward to it,” he said of his final day showdown with Lowry. “It’s going to be another chapter in my career and you never know what happens. It’s going to be a very special day.”

JB Holmes leads those behind, a closing birdie and 69 leaving him six shots adrift while Justin Rose and Brooks Koepka, are one further back.

Rose was charging on the back nine – an eagle at 12, and birdies at 13 and 15, taking him into double figures.

A dropped shot at Calamity Corner blunted his progress as he finished with a 68. Koepka, meanwhile, crowned an up and down closing stretch with birdies at the final two holes as he continued his phenomenal display in majors.

Lee Westwood was part of the leading group as they approached half-way but his round turned when he was forced to take an unplayable after hitting his ball into a bush on the 10th. His 70 means he’s eight shots away.

With biblical weather expected tomorrow, and the tee times subsequently brought forward, the chasers will still believe an unlikely comeback is possible.

They’ve all got a massive mountain to climb.

2019 Open report: Any talking points?

Darren Clarke was visibly shaken when he made a monumental mess of Portrush’s 18th on Friday to fall the wrong side of the cut line.

A bogey would have seen him make it to the weekend in his home Open, but a duffed bunker shot and three putt led to a 7 on the par-4 finisher and, after tapping in, Clarke bolted straight for the locker room.

He didn’t speak to the press after, but on Saturday he posted a photo of himself on the 1st tee on Instagram.

It said: “Gutted with my finish yesterday but sometimes our sport is hard. Thank you so much to all the fans for your support this week. I’ll cherish the reception on the 1st tee forever.”

He then added his support for fellow Irishman Shane Lowry and Lee Westwood.

When we met Clarke a few weeks back, we couldn’t resist asking him who the best player without a major is.

“Lee Westwood, without a doubt” he replied. “The way he has played, his ball striking and everything over the years. He had a couple of chances where Phil [Mickelson] hit miraculous shots at Augusta [to win the 2010 Masters where Westwood finished second] and at Turnberry, when Tom Watson was beaten by Stewart Cink, Lee played great and hit it into that bunker on 18, hit a great shot onto the green thinking he had it going and then three putted.

“He had his chances but it just didn’t quite go his way.”

“But,” he added, “never say never.”

Clarke also suggested Portrush will host the Open again within 10 years – which coincidentally is how long the 50-year-old has left on his exemption to golf’s oldest major…

**

Kyle Stanley as hit back, as they say, at Robert MacIntyre’s suggestion they had it out over the American’s failure to shout ‘Fore’ on a number of occasions during Friday’s second round, calling it a “non-issue”.

On the 17th, Stanley was accused of staying silent as his ball sailed into the galleries and eventually struck the mother of MacIntyre’s caddie.

But Stanley stood firm: “Several people on the tee box yelled,” he said. “My two playing partners, my caddie, a couple of the volunteers or the marshals, even had them signalling it was going right. I mean, everyone to the right of that ball, they knew it was coming.

“So to me it’s kind of a non-issue. I’m not really sure why he decided to make such an issue about it. I know it hit his caddie’s mum’s hands off the bounce and that’s unfortunate. But as far as I’m concerned, a number of people yelled ‘Fore’.

“He made the argument that since I hit the ball that it maybe should have come out of my mouth first. I guess I can see that.”

Lads, save it for Whistling Straits.

**

Who on earth is Gary McNeill, you might have been asking yourself if tuning in to early coverage. Well he’s the head pro at Royal Portrush and the man tasked with acting as a marker due to an odd number of players making the cut.

McNeill carded an 80, just five worse than playing partner Paul Waring. Mark Townsend joined the pair for their round and caught up with them afterwards.

McNeill will tee up again on Sunday, this time with friend of NCG Ashton Turner, but it looks like it’ll be a bit earlier than it was today…

You can see all the tee times here.

2019 Open report: Shots of the day

Tony Finau gave the fans on 18 something to cheer about well before Lee Westwood and Shane Lowry arrived…

Give it up for Danny Willett, who carded a 65 that included this stunning hole-out from the thick stuff…

But our winner is Shane Lowry, who set up this stunning birdie at the 3rd…

And if you’re going to take control of a golf tournament, you may as well do it like this…

Roll on Sunday.

Keep up to speed with everything you need from Portrush on our dedicated Open website, or join the conversation on Twitter, Facebook and Instagram.

Miss anything from the first two days? Head to the next page…