After a spectacular course record 63 propelled Shane Lowry into a four-shot lead in The Open Championship, the still giddy and disbelieving Irishman promised to make amends for blowing the same advantage at the US Open three years ago.
After leading the field at Oakmont, a streak of bogeys down the stretch saw Lowry slip to a 76 and squander victory to Dustin Johnson. However, the 32-year-old’s stunning eight-under-par round on a still day at Royal Portrush had an altogether different feel as he revelled in a raucous atmosphere and birdied three of the last four holes to take another imposing lead into the final round.
“I learned a lot about myself at Oakmont,” Lowry said. “I’m going to learn a lot about myself tomorrow. I feel like, obviously, look, tomorrow is a huge day in my career. I think I learned a few things that day about playing in the final round of a major with a lead, that you need to just hang in until the very last minute. I feel like I’m a different person. I don’t think I’m a much different golfer, but I feel like I’m a different person now. I think that’s what will help me tomorrow.”
Lowry was cheered on by an overwhelming display of partisan support, who continued to chant his name long after he had left the 18th green as the rain started to pour outside.
“Honestly, that’s the most incredible day I’ve ever had on the golf course,” he continued. ”I honestly can’t explain what it was like. I suppose the only way I can describe it is, I’m not sure, but hopefully tomorrow, I said to Bo [his caddie] walking off the 17th tee, we might never have a day like this on the golf course again, so let’s enjoy this next half hour. You know what I mean? And that’s what I did. The crowd was incredible. I just can’t believe what it was like.”
A forecast of torrential rain and howling gales is forecast for tomorrow, leading tee-times to be moved an hour earlier which throws an air of unpredictability at Lowry’s advantage.
“I know there’s some bad weather coming in,” he said. “I know it’s going to rain. I know it’s going to be difficult at times and I have to just try and shoot the best score I can.
“I’m in a good position and I just have to do what I’ve been doing all year and hit the reset button tonight and go out there and shoot as good a score as I can tomorrow.”
Fleetwood is Lowry’s nearest challenger, sitting four shots back on 12-under-par after a faultless 66 that might on any other given day have put him in the ascendancy. JB Holmes lies a further two shots back, while Brooks Koepka and Justin Rose are perched on nine-under-par.