The British Open's legacy is propped up by an unerring adherence to tradition and history, which makes the third round of 2014's edition notable for the changes made to play before the round even began.
Inclement weather threatened to upset the day's play, so the tournament went to a split-tee format for the first time in its history, with some golfers starting out on the back nine in order to save time.
The only true threat to the tournament was Rory McIlroy's continued dominance, as his clutch golfing has threatened to put an end to the drama before a new set of storm clouds rolls in on Sunday.
Here are the final scores from Day 3 at the Royal Liverpool Golf Club.
McIlroy had a bit of a wild scorecard on Saturday. The first two days were marked by calm and consistency, but McIlroy hit two bogeys and three birdies through his first 15 holes to open the door for the likes of Rickie Fowler.
Fowler had a slightly earlier tee time than McIlroy and immediately went to work on his lead. The American hit five birdies on his first 12 holes of the day and was briefly tied with McIlroy as noted by ESPN Stats & Info:
McIlroy then came up with two ultra-clutch eagles on holes No. 16 and No. 18 to drop his score to 16-under and give himself some breathing room at the top of the leaderboard.
Golf Channel's Justin Ray noted that the young Northern Irishman is the rare sort of golfer capable of pulling out dominant victories at major tournaments:
McIlroy knows there is plenty at stake on Sunday and the only way to deal with it is to stay calm and play his best golf.
"It's just about trying to control yourself and control your emotions. It's a huge day in my career and I feel like I'm up to the task," he said, via CBS Sports' Kyle Porter.
Fowler will continue to give chase on Sunday, but it will take a monstrous showing or some sort of epic collapse by McIlroy for him to make up six shots over 18 holes. However, recent history is actually somewhat in Fowler's favor, per ESPN Stats & Info:
Of course, Fowler has to keep his head on a swivel as there are four players within three strokes of catching him for second place, with Sergio Garcia the most notable among them at nine under.
The 34-year-old Spaniard is noted for his inconsistent play, with the ability to bracket eagles with baffling bogeys on any given day. He was the model of consistency on Sunday, hitting two bogeys and five birdies to stay just one stroke back of Fowler.
The whipping winds at the Open don't seem to bother Garcia, who said that he enjoys the special challenge that is links golf.
"There is a beauty to playing links golf that is special. I've always enjoyed links courses. It always depends on the weather when you are on a links course. If the wind blows it becomes harder; if it's calm it's a little easier," said Garcia, via USA Today's Steve DiMeglio.
Tiger Woods couldn't do much worse than he did in the second round on Friday, hitting a 73 to remain at plus three for the tournament and in an ignominious tie for 58th place. ESPN's Bob Harig noted it has been three years since Woods has had a favorable weekend round in a major tournament:
It should be noted that Saturday was only Woods' fifth round of competitive golf since returning from back surgery. However, his issues driving the ball and inability to maintain consistency on the greens do not bode well for his immediate future.
It is a testament to Dustin Johnson's performance on Day 2 that he came back to earth with a 71 in the third round and still finds himself tied with Garcia.
Johnson drew favorable conditions on Friday that allowed him to post a sizzling 65 for the second round. If Johnson gets another lucky break on Sunday, he could very well find himself in conversation for a top finish.
If McIlroy can hold off the field and win the Open, it would give him victories at three out of the four majors in his career by the age of 25. He's shown flashes of the ability to dominate major tournaments rarely seen since the early days of Woods, perhaps setting him up as the PGA Tour's best chance at a young star capable of generating a huge following.
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