After 36 holes of the 2014 British Open, Rory McIlroy has a chance to claim his third major championship with a wire-to-wire win. He followed up two rounds of 66 with a 68 on Saturday to take a six-shot lead entering the final 18 holes.
McIlroy wasn't without stiff competition in Round 3, as treacherous weather subsided during the round, allowing multiple players—notably Rickie Fowler—to put up some low numbers on the day.
Here's a look at the tournament's current leaderboard:
Although Saturday wasn't exactly McIlroy's most flawless round of the tournament, he was able to rebound nicely from his three bogeys on the day. Take a look at his third-round scorecard:
Once again, McIlroy began his round in ominous fashion. He took a bogey at the par-four first for the second consecutive round. While he rebounded quickly from that stumble in Round 2, he wasn't as quick to do so on Saturday.
The world's No. 8 player did record a birdie on the par-five fifth to get back to level for the day and made the turn with an even-par 35, but that also allowed Fowler to make up a great deal of ground.
In short order, the two were tied atop the leaderboard:
After a birdie at No. 11, McIlroy stumbled again on the par-four 12th, recording his second bogey of the day. This wasn't in typical fashion for him during this year's Open Championship, as ESPN Stats & Info noted:
Rory McIlroy's bogey on No. 12 today was just his 3rd of entire tournament (other 2 came on No. 1)— ESPN Stats & Info (@ESPNStatsInfo) July 19, 2014
McIlroy didn't let the dropped shot hinder his performance, as he rebounded nicely, posting a birdie on the par-four 14th and his first eagle of the tournament on the par-five 16th.
All of a sudden, he had a cushioned lead once more. Fox Sports enthusiastically tweeted McIlroy's stellar performance on the hole:
BOOM! Rory McIlroy drops an EAGLE putt on No. 16 and just like that he's -15 & has a 5 shot lead. #TheOpen— FOX Sports (@FOXSports) July 19, 2014
Unfortunately, McIlroy followed his eagle up with another bogey to fall back to 14 under for the tournament, but once again, that wouldn't last long.
After a booming tee shot on the 18th hole, he hit an absolutely brilliant long iron to reach the green in two and give him a nice look a yet another eagle. With nerves of steel and a smooth stroke, he knocked it in, completing his round of 68.
Golf Central tweeted the clutch stroke as it happened:
McIlroy's been in this position before.
The two-time major winner has dominated in those previous victories, and should he continue on this pace in the British Open's final round, he'll join some elite company, according to Justin Ray of the Golf Channel:
Rory McIlroy won his 1st 2 majors by 8 shots each. Only player in golf history with 3 major wins by 7+ shots is Tiger Woods (with 3).— Justin Ray (@JustinRayGC) July 19, 2014
Speaking of some elite company, ESPN Stats & Info gave one other impressive feat McIlroy would accomplish with a win:
If Rory McIlroy (25 yrs) wins @The_Open, he will be 3rd youngest to win 3 majors in Masters Era (since '34) - Nicklaus (23), Woods (24)— ESPN Stats & Info (@ESPNStatsInfo) July 19, 2014
So, the question now becomes this: Can he hang on for 18 more holes?
McIlroy certainly isn't in uncharted waters. He's led a major after 54 holes three times before. According to ESPN Stats & Info, two of those leads turned into victories:
Rory McIlroy has held a 54-hole lead at a major 3 previous times - winning twice (2012 PGA Championship, 2011 U.S. Open)— ESPN Stats & Info (@ESPNStatsInfo) July 19, 2014
Jason Sobel of the Golf Channel noted how familiar McIlroy's dominance looked:
Rory McIlroy is pulling away at a major like another guy we watched. The one who could dominate a major weekend. You know ... Martin Kaymer.— Jason Sobel (@JasonSobelGC) July 19, 2014
The way things are shaping up for Sunday, we shouldn't see any more rain; however, golfers will still deal with strong winds, according to Weather.com.
Will McIlroy get the win?
Wind hasn't exactly bothered McIlroy, or his ability to navigate efficiently around the course thus far, and he should be able to maintain his confidence heading into the final 18 holes.
He still has a talented field nipping at his heels; although, with great momentum and a six-stroke lead heading into the tournament's final day, McIlroy shouldn't need to shoot too low of a score to hoist the Claret Jug this year.
You're not going to want to miss a moment of Sunday's action at Royal Liverpool.