Perhaps Rory McIlroy will get lost on the way to Royal Liverpool Sunday before the final round of the 2014 British Open. That’s probably the only way another golfer is going to win this tournament.
Of course, crazier things have happened during majors on the PGA Tour. McIlroy sits at an incredible 16-under par through three rounds, which is an entire six strokes clear of the rest of the field. Even if he walks to victory Sunday, there are still plenty of storylines to keep an eye on.
Let’s look at a few of them.
Rory McIlroy’s Dominance
It is a testament to how well McIlroy is playing in the British Open that his 68 Saturday was his worst round of the tournament. Still, his six-stroke lead is the largest heading into the final round of the event since Tiger Woods did so in 2000.
The only question now is whether McIlroy can prevent himself from looking ahead and take a hole-by-hole approach Sunday.
He certainly had the right mindset after his round Saturday, according to The Associated Press (via ESPN.com):
I’m not taking anything for granted. If the guys in front of me had just finished a little better -- finished the way I did -- then my lead wouldn’t have been as much as it was. ... A lot can happen. And I’ve been on the right side of it and I’ve been on the wrong side of it. You can’t let yourself think forward. You’ve just got to completely stay in the moment, and that’s what I’m going to try to do for all 18 holes tomorrow.
He will look to pick up where he left off after tallying an eagle on his last hole of the third round with an impressive putt. With a victory, McIlroy would join Woods and Jack Nicklaus as the only golfers to win three different majors by the ripe old age of 25.
Nobody has ever lost the British Open entering the final round with a six-stroke lead. McIlroy isn’t about to become the first.
Superstars Jockeying for Position
McIlroy may have sapped the British Open of much of its competitive juices by dominating the first three rounds, but there is enough star power behind him on the leaderboard to at least create a semblance of a contest Sunday.
In fact, Rickie Fowler, Sergio Garcia and Dustin Johnson are the three closest golfers. Fowler sits six strokes back at 10-under par, while Garcia and Johnson are both seven strokes clear of McIlroy.
Fowler actually tallied three straight birdies Saturday and looked in position to compete for the lead heading into the last day until McIlroy caught fire down the stretch. Garcia had some chances on the green to cut into the lead as well, and Johnson actually birdied his first hole Saturday to cut the deficit to two strokes.
All three have had their chances, but McIlroy’s consistency has kept them off the lead. All it would take is a few early birdies from these stars to spice up championship Sunday, though.
At least TaylorMade Golf hasn’t given up yet:
Like it or not, Woods is always going to be a primary storyline at any major, even if he doesn’t have a chance to win.
Sure, he’s an astounding 19 strokes behind McIlroy, but Woods drew the biggest galleries throughout the day during the third round. He’s the game’s brightest star, and this is his first time on a grand stage in four months after back surgery.
It’s more about looking forward at this point for Woods.
He looked more than impressive and probably surprised a few people Thursday when he started the tournament with a 69. However, he fell apart with a 77 in the second round, but those glimpses of brilliance Thursday should have Woods and his fans very excited about what the future holds.
He went on a streak during the first round where he birdied five of six holes and showed few signs of any discomfort. If he can put together a round like that Sunday, it would give him the necessary confidence going forward that he can re-establish himself as the game’s best player.
After all, Nicklaus’ record is still hanging in the balance.
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