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Saturday, 20 July 2019
Shane Lowry  (Getty Images)
Shane Lowry (Getty Images)

Irishman Shane Lowry will enter the final round of the 148th Open Championship with a commanding four shot lead after producing a new course record 63 in an electric atmosphere at Royal Portrush Golf Club on Saturday.

Lowry was roared on by enormous crowds at every hole but managed to keep a cool head, firing eight birdies and no bogeys to reach 16 under par and become the first player from the Republic of Ireland to lead The Open after 54 holes.

The four time European Tour winner, who is bidding to win his maiden Major Championship title this week, put on a short game masterclass on the back nine, reeling off three birdies in a row from the 15th to pull clear of the rest of the field.

Ryder Cup star Tommy Fleetwood is Lowry's nearest challenger on 12 under following his flawless 66, with halfway co-leader J B Holmes another two shots back in third.

Englishman Justin Rose and four time Major winner Brooks Koepka are in a tie for fourth on nine under.

Lowry said: "That's the most incredible day I've ever had on the golf course. I honestly can't explain what it was like. The crowd was incredible.

"I can imagine it was quite difficult for J B to play with, but, yeah, I found it OK."

Lowry began the day in a share of first place alongside Holmes but slipped down the leaderboard after only carding pars at the first and second holes while Holmes and Lee Westwood made early birdies.

The 32-year-old's first birdie arrived at the third when he landed his tee shot three feet from the cup before rolling in.

Holmes also birdied the third to regain the outright lead and the American was joined on ten under by Westwood after he reeled off his third straight birdie at the fourth.

That's the most incredible day I've ever had on the golf course. Shane Lowry

After narrowly missing his lengthy birdie effort on the fourth, Lowry grabbed a share of the lead with a gain from five feet at the fifth.

An already congested leaderboard became tighter still as Englishman Tommy Fleetwood fired a birdie at the long seventh to join the co-leaders on ten under.

Pars at the sixth, seventh and eighth saw Lowry remain in the breakaway group at the top of the leaderboard before a birdie from six feet on the ninth gave him the solo lead at the turn.

He was not alone at the summit for long, though, as Fleetwood's birdie at the tenth took him to 11 under.

The atmosphere had been electric on the front nine as a vocal crowd cheered every one of Lowry's shots and the volume cranked up another notch as he drained his birdie putt from five feet at the tenth to regain the outright lead on 12 under.

Fleetwood took advantage of the 12th to join Lowry at the top again but when the Irishman also tapped in from close range on the back nine's only par five, he moved to 13 under and had the outright lead once more.

Lowry kept the momentum going with a brilliant up-and-down for par at the 14th after getting into trouble off the tee but he still had Fleetwood breathing down his neck on 12 under.

The 2009 Irish Open winner made birdie putts from around eight feet at the 15th and 16th before sending his approach to three feet at the 17th for three in a row.

He narrowly missed his long birdie try at the 18th but the Clara native will take a healthy advantage into Sunday's final round.

Lowry added: "I know tomorrow is going to be a difficult day. I know there's some bad weather coming in. But I'm in a good position.

"I just have to do what I've been doing all year, hit the reset button tonight and go out there and shoot as good a score as I can. And hopefully that's good enough tomorrow evening."

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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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