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Saturday, 20 July 2019
Tommy Fleetwood  (Getty Images)
Tommy Fleetwood (Getty Images)

Francesco Molinari is backing Ryder Cup partner Tommy Fleetwood to succeed him as Open Champion as he wants to see his friend's name next to his on the Claret Jug.

Fleetwood will be in the final pairing on Sunday as he chases a first Major victory, lying four shots behind Irishman Shane Lowry after the third round at Royal Portrush Golf Club.

And with defending champion Molinari 18 shots off the lead after a one-over 72 on Saturday, the Italian is now cheering on Fleetwood.

"It would be great to have his name next to mine on the Claret Jug and we can have a big party next week," said Molinari.

"He's a friend and I'll cheer him on and hopefully he can get it done. There's still a long way. But he's there with a chance. If it's not this week, I think it's coming pretty soon.

"He's a very talented player. He's still very young. The way he plays and the way he handles himself, it's just a matter of time. I hope for him it would be this week."

Molinari teamed up with Fleetwood at last year's Ryder Cup to record-breaking effect.

'Moliwood' earned four points from four matches together on Friday and Saturday as Europe regained the Ryder Cup at Le Golf National.

This week, 28-year-old Fleetwood is primed to make a run at the Claret Jug and add a first Major Championship to his four European Tour wins.

He started day three in style, becoming just the fourth player to birdie the opening hole after sinking a stunning putt from 18 feet.

The Englishman almost eagled the fifth but his second shot at the par four just evaded the cup and travelled past by two feet, and then he added another birdie at the seventh as he holed a four footer to join the leaders on ten under par.

Fleetwood added another birdie at the 12th before he parred his way home, but Lowry was producing an incredible display behind him to take a healthy lead into the final day, which will be starting earlier due to expected adverse weather conditions.

"I'm looking forward to it," said Fleetwood. "It's going to be another chapter in my career, no matter what happens. And it's going to be a very special day.

"If you had said at the start of today, at the start of the week, at the start of the year, you're going into the last round, whether I'm four back, five back, it doesn't matter, I'm in the last group Sunday at The Open and playing with Shane, and the majority of the crowd might not be with you, I would have said, 'Yeah, that's fine'."

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Tournament Leaderboard

Pos Player nameNatHolePar
1LOWRY, ShaneIRL18-15
2FLEETWOOD, TommyENG18-9
3FINAU, TonyUSA18-7
T4WESTWOOD, LeeENG18-6
T4KOEPKA, BrooksUSA18-6
T6MACINTYRE, RobertSCO18-5

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