McIlroy clings to lead ahead of charging Fowler

Rory McIlroy continued to battle to protect a two shot lead at the Open on Saturday after American Rickie Fowler briefly drew level in a thrilling third round at Hoylake.

Fowler had moved into the joint lead on 13 under, but it was a short-lived experience as Northern Ireland`s McIlroy enjoyed an immediate two shot swing when he birdied 14 and the Californian bogeyed for the second time at the same hole.

The two-time major winner rested on 13-under with three holes to play as he endured a scrambling round that saw him wayward from the tee but in brilliant touch from around the green.

The expected storm that had been forecast to disrupt play appeared to skirt past the Royal Liverpool layout as fans were able to enjoy the action with umbrellas folded after heavy rain greeted the players at the outset.

Seven birdies in 12 holes from Fowler piled the pressure on McIlroy whose sloppy tee shots threatened to see him throw away an overnight four shot lead.

Spaniard Sergia Garcia remained in their slipstream and was four shots back with three to play while a group of five players were locked on seven under and six adrift.

Italian Edoardo Mollinari, Frenchman Victor Dubuisson, American pair Jim Furyk and Dustin Johnson as well as South Africa`s Charl Schwartzel remain in the hunt as the expected wave of heavy rain and turbulent weather failed to materialise.

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