The conditions at Royal Liverpool Golf Club are a bit rainy and damp, but that hasn't stopped the world's best golfers from putting up some strong scores during the third round of the Open Championship.
Rory McIlroy entered Saturday with a four-shot lead in Hoylake, England; however, several of the players who are chasing him are on the ascent. With so many strokes being picked up, it stands to reason that the leaderboard could look much different by the end of the day.
Here is a look at the current standings along with some additional analysis regarding the players who have made the most noise Saturday at the British Open.
Players On the Move
Among those giving McIlroy a run for his money in the third round is American Rickie Fowler. The 25-year-old star has been playing some spectacular golf as of late, and it seems like only a matter of time before he eventually wins a major championship.
If he is able to remain in the form he has displayed Saturday, then perhaps that first major title will be won this weekend.
Fowler came out of the gates firing as he played the first six holes four-under par. According to Golf Channel's Justin Ray, Fowler has been on an absolute birdie fest since his last tournament:
Rickie Fowler: -4 through 6; that was his 24th birdie in his last 59 holes dating to last week's Scottish Open— Justin Ray (@JustinRayGC) July 19, 2014
His level of play has certainly carried over to Royal Liverpool and has very much put him in contention. Being in the mix at a major is nothing new for Fowler, though. According to PGA Tour on Twitter, he is already eyeing his third top-five major finish of the year:
Joining the tie for second place: Rickie Fowler, who has already finished top 5 at the year's first two majors. pic.twitter.com/U0cdu04cLF— PGA TOUR (@PGATOUR) July 18, 2014
Truth be told, Fowler's goal likely extends beyond the top five. He has been knocking on the door for quite some time and appears ready to kick it down. Fowler has a penchant for performing well in less-than-ideal conditions, which means that the Open Championship is essentially tailor-made for him.
Fowler still has plenty of work left to do in the third and fourth rounds, but he is applying some pressure on McIlroy and the rest of the field. If he is able to maintain his level of play for the remainder of the tournament, then there is no question that he will be in it until the bitter end.
All eyes were on McIlroy when play started Saturday, but a fellow Northern Irishman has stolen the spotlight to some degree. Darren Clarke entered the third round at even par after shooting 72 in each of the first two rounds.
The 2011 British Open champion went on a bit of a birdie binge, though, and has played his way to relevancy.
Clarke has always done quite well for himself at the Open Championship due largely to his ability to perform regardless of the weather situation. According to Simon Cambers of The Guardian, that fact allowed Clarke to rise up the leaderboard Saturday:
Even though rain at the Open is only now getting heavier, the top bad-weather players are going well, including Darren Clarke -3 on the day— Simon Cambers (@scambers73) July 19, 2014
The past few years haven't been particularly fruitful for Clarke, but he has rededicated himself in a big way. Per Ewan Murray of The Guardian, Clarke has gotten himself in great shape with the hope of being a factor in top tournaments again.
I want to get myself back into contention again, wherever that may be. The scoring side of my game has been poor but my actual ball-striking hasn't been. I am doing everything I can do to keep myself as competitive as I can be. That's why I have gone to the gym, got myself so fit and strong and practiced as hard as I have ever done. I can't leave it alone, I want to play golf. I love the game and hate the game, but that's professional golf.
It remains to be seen how far Clarke's hard work will ultimately take him, but there is no question that it has started to pay dividends in the third round.
It may be a bit too late for Clarke to vie for a second British Open title this year, although you never know what might happen at the Open Championship.
He hasn't received much media attention this week at Royal Liverpool, but Frenchman Victor Dubuisson has acquitted himself quite well. The 24-year-old rising star doesn't have much major experience, but that hasn't stopped him from registering a strong third round and putting himself in contention.
In fact, this marks just the second Open Championship appearance of Dubuisson's young career, according to Beth Ann Nichols of Golfweek.com:
Jimmy Walker and Victor Dubuisson are each playing in their second Open. Both MC'd in their debuts. Both are currently in top 10.— Beth Ann Nichols (@GolfweekNichols) July 19, 2014
Finding his way to the top 10 is important in terms of being a factor in majors moving forward. The biggest reward, though, could be increased consideration for the European Ryder Cup team. There is no question that Dubuisson has played his way into the conversation.
If he can keep it going and turn in another fine round on Sunday, then there is no telling how Dubuisson might ultimately fare in the Open Championship and in the eyes of the Ryder Cup decision-makers as well.
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