Street. Andrews, Scotland – Standing on one of 112 Old Course courses on Saturday, Rory McIlroy was about to be right where he wanted to be: atop the British Open leaderboard.
His driving into the 10th hole landed him in trouble but not much trouble, as he stopped in the middle of a sand trap defending the front of the green.
McIlroy had room to swing freely, and his second shot flew over the edge of the bunker, bounced three times and then rolled a few more feet into the cup for the eagle.
The teacher’s 27-yard hit gave McIlroy a one-shot lead over Victor Hovland, his playing partner.
“It was a skill to get close to somewhere,” McIlroy said. “But it was fortunate that she got into the hole. You need a little luck now and then, especially in these big tournaments. And that was a great bonus.”
A pleasant surprise was one that could make the difference between winning or losing a major tournament, and Hovland got his own bonus on Friday when he smashed out of rough ground from 139 yards for an Eagle in 15 bars.
But Hovland, the 24-year-old Norwegian who excelled at Oklahoma State before turning pro in 2019, didn’t allow McElroy to enjoy the lead alone for long. He quickly rolled McIlroy with a birdie on day 10 which put them at 15 below par, then duel on the back nine of golf’s most historic.
McIlroy, of Northern Ireland, was certainly a crowd favorite, but Hovland, a dynamic presence, didn’t hold back from the challenge. They finished in matching rounds of 66 and a share of the lead at 16 under the par that made them a four-shot lead. chase pack Led by American Cameron Young and Australian Cameron Smith, both 12-year-olds heading into Sunday.
Among the top four men on the leaderboard, McIlroy, 33, is already a big champion, but his last of four victories came in 2014 when he won the British Open at Royal Liverpool.
Since then, he’s had a lot of disappointing Sundays.
“Nothing has been given to you,” he said, “and I must go out there and earn it, just as I’ve earned everything else in my career.”
Other big heroes are also in range. Scotty Scheffler, the American who She won a master’s in April She ranks first in the world, ranks 11th under, and is tied with Kim Se Woo of South Korea. Dustin Johnson, the two-time main winner from the US who recently jumped to splinter LIV golf chainalone at the age of ten after mood swings 71 on Saturday.
England’s Matt Fitzpatrick Who won the US Open this year?at the age of nine with Adam Scott, the 2013 Masters Champion, and Tommy Fleetwood.
But if McIlroy and Hovland continue to shine under pressure as they did on Saturday, they may not allow the pack to have much chance of closing the gap.
“There are a lot of things that can happen,” Hovland said. “In those circumstances and these pin positions, you can play really well and shoot equally, and then that brings in a lot of other players as well.”
The weather is expected to remain relatively mild on Sunday, with moderate winds and temperatures in the mid-70s. That could mean more low scores were the norm at St Andrews in this 150th edition of the Open Championship.
Several players put on a great show on Saturday, including Shane Lowry, who featured in the Eagles back-to-back on the 9th and 10th; and Kevin Kisner, who barely made the cut but had the best run of the day: a 7 under 65 par that put him in the tie for 13th.
“It’s just a fun place to walk around and play golf, and when you get in the hits, it makes it a lot more fun,” said Kesner.
This seemed an apt summation of a good day at many golf courses, but the success on the old course still holds a special character even as the world’s best golfers make their way.
McIlroy is well aware of what Sunday’s win will mean for him and his fans – perhaps very knowledgeable.
“I love that I have had so much support,” he said. “But at the same time I need to kind of stay in my own little world tomorrow and play a good round of golf and hopefully that’s enough.”
It wasn’t enough to get rid of Hovland in the third round. Both started the day at the age of 10 and in the penultimate group, ahead of second-round leader Smith and first-round leader Young.
Hovland set a fast pace early on, making four straight birds, starting with a 38-foot-tall bird put on 3 and 42 feet by 4. But McIlroy made his own finches at numbers 5, 6, and 9 before his eagle out of the sand at No. 10 And another bird in number 15 brought him back the frank lead.
But he couldn’t keep it because Hovland outdid him at 17, putting him on a par while McIlroy had to accept a bogey.
At the age of 18, they finished the unforgettable tour as they had begun, tied up and spirits refreshed.
“We fed each other and got through the last few holes really well,” McIlroy said.
This was pure competition, but there was no pessimistic struggle. There were fist bumps, smiles, and plenty of chatter during most of the tour.
“I talked about a whole bunch of things,” McIlroy said. “I talked about shoes. Talk about what he’s done in the past two weeks. He returned to his homeland in Norway. He will return to Norway after that. I just kept it nice and loose.”
McIlroy may be nine years older, but he developed a good relationship with Hovland after playing (and losing) in the same European Ryder Cup team last year. But although they will get back together on Sunday, they are no longer teammates.
McIlroy attempts to end a major eight-year drought by winning the final open hall. Hovland is trying to become the first Norwegian man to win a major tournament.
“It’s pretty crazy where I grew up,” Hovland said. “I have to push myself, but that doesn’t mean I’m going to back out tomorrow.”
“Tv expert. Writer. Extreme gamer. Subtly charming web specialist. Student. Evil coffee buff.”