McIlroy on cusp of British Open glory
Rory McIlroy took a six strokes lead into the final round of the British Open on Sunday knowing that a win at the end of the day would put him up alongside Tiger Woods and Jack Nicklaus in major golf history.
Those two legends of the sport are the only players to date to have won three out of the four major titles by the time they were 25. McIlroy, if he wins would match them..
All the signs were at green for the popular Irishman as Saturday`s torrential downpours gave way to sunshine and perfect playing conditions at Royal Liverpool Golf Club.
No-one in the long history of the Open Championship dating back to 1860 has let slip a six-stroke lead in the tournament`s final round.
McIlroy though knows what it feels like to experience heartbreak in the final round of a major, having squandered a four-stroke lead on the final day of the 2012 Masters.
But just a few months after that he won the US Open at Congressional by eight strokes and the following year he took the US PGA Championship at Kiawah Island by an identical margin.
If he does the same thing again on Sunday and wins by eight he would match Woods who took his first Open title at St Andrews in 2000 by that margin when he was in his prime.
McIlroy believes that the experience he has already accumulated in his young career could prove to be crucial throughout Sunday`s play.
"I`ve been in this position before and I`ve been able to convert and I`ve been able to get the job done. I`m comfortable with the position I am in, just really comfortable with my golf game," he said.
Adding to the comfort zone is the fact that he will go out in the final pairing with close friend Rickie Fowler, another 25-year-old who shot a 68 on Saturday to end the day second best, six strokes back.
The American at one stage in the third round pulled level with McIlroy before he faded down the back nine and McIlroy finished with eagles at the 16th and 18th.
Mission impossible many would say for Fowler, but he believes there is an outside chance he could still win what would be his first major title.
"We`re good buddies and at the same time we both want to beat up on each other as bad as possible," he said.
"We`ll have fun throwing shots back and forth. And it will be fun to see if I can go out and put a bit of pressure on him and make him earn it a bit, and see if I can get myself in the mix, and maybe we`ll be able to throw some blows back and forth."
Others hoping that McIlroy will fail to reproduce the kind of form that has so far brought him rounds of 66, 66 and 68 include Sergio Garcia of Spain and Dustin Johnson of the United States who will go out in the penultimate pairing, both seven back.
Frenchman Victor Dubuisson and Edoardo Molinari of Italy go off ahead of them.
Of the leading six golfers only McIlroy has won a major and the betting was that that would not change by the end of the day.