Hoylake, UK: Rory McIlroy was in a fast forward mode as he raced to 16-under with one birdie, one bogey and two eagles and opened up an yawning six-shot lead over his nearest rival, Rickie Fowler at the end of the third round of the Open Championships here Saturday.
McIlroy, playing some of his best golf, followed up his amazing driving and iron play with excellent putting on the green today to shoot four-under 68 after 66-66 in first two rounds.
Starting six shots ahead of Fowler, he stayed six clear after both were tied at 12-under after 12 holes. Sergio Garcia (69) was third with yesterday`s hero Dustin Johnson (71) at nine-under 207.
McIlroy is 16-under 200 and Fowler (69-69-68) is at 206, while Sergio Garcia (68-70-69) and Dustin Johnson (71-65-71) were tied for third at 207. Frenchman Victor Dubuisson of France (68) was fifth and Edoardo Molinari (68) was sixth.
Five players, Matteo Manassero (68), Adam Scott (69), Robert Karlsson (70), Jim Furyk (71) and Charl Schwartzel (72) were tied for seventh at 210.
For the record, Tiger Woods, the last man to win at Hoylake in 2006, is at three-over 219 in tied 58th place and 19 shots behind McIlroy.
Both McIlroy and Fowler are 25 and are considered to be among the two best young talents in world golf, though Fowler is yet to win a Major.
In contrast McIlroy could win his third Major on Sunday and be three-quarters of a way around a career Slam before the age of 25. And he would naturally start as the favourite for Masters next April.
McIlroy, when asked about it said,"It would mean a lot of hype going into Augusta next year (laughing). It would be (great) -- not a lot of people have achieved the career Grand Slam.
And if everything goes the right way tomorrow to get to that three-quarters of the way there is some achievement by the age of 25. I`d be in pretty illustrious company. So not getting ahead of ourselves, here, but yeah, it would mean an awful lot."
McIlroy, who started the day four shots ahead of overnight second Johnson had a bogey on first, just as he did on Friday in second round.
But he prevented any further damage and got back the shot with a birdie on fifth. Johnson opened with a birdie and the gap was two. But Johnson later bogeyed seventh, eighth and ninth and fell off the radar.
By then Fowler was making his move with a front-nine three-under 32 with three par-fives on back nine yet to come. Fowler ran up three birdies in a row form 10th to 12 and caught up with McIlroy.
But the clash of the two young stars never really happened as McIlroy moved into a different gear from 14th and ran away from the field.
Fowler and McIlroy parred the 13th. McIlroy birdied the 14th, parred the 15th and then shifted another gear on the 16th.
A bogey on 17th stopped him momentarily but he was off again on 18th. He smashed a drive down the middle on 18th and followed it up with a brilliant second shot and holed an 11-footer for his second eagle of the day.
He finished at four-under 68 following on 66-66 on first two days. Fowler crumbled with bogeys on 14th, 16th and 17th, before a consolation birdie on 18th.