Ireland's Shane Lowry remained atop the leaderboard Saturday at the 2019 Open Championship with a dominant eight-under 63 in the third round at Royal Portrush Golf Club in Portrush, Northern Ireland.
Lowry was tied with American J.B. Holmes for the lead through two rounds, but at 16 under for the tournament, he now holds a four-stroke lead over Tommy Fleetwood in second.
Here is a look at the leaderboard after Saturday's action with full results available at PGATour.com (Saturday score in parenthesis):
1. Shane Lowry: -16 (63)
2. Tommy Fleetwood: -12 (66)
3. J.B. Holmes: -10 (69)
T4. Brooks Koepka: -9 (67)
T4. Justin Rose: -9 (68)
T6. Rickie Fowler: -8 (66)
T6. Lee Westwood: -8 (70)
T8. Jordan Spieth: -7 (69)
T8. Jon Rahm: -7 (68)
T8. Tony Finau: -7 (68)
The steady play Lowry enjoyed during the first two rounds of the tournament carried over to a third round that saw much of the field rack up birdies more consistently than is usually seen at the British Open.
Lowry got moving in the right direction early when his tee shot on the par-three third narrowly missed the flag stick, which forced him to settle for a birdie:
He carded two more birdies on the front nine and took back the outright lead with his birdie on the par-four ninth:
Lowry then birdied the 10th and the 12th, the latter of which gave him the solo lead once again:
He reeled off three consecutive birdies on Nos. 15, 16 and 17, which gave him an opportunity to match the best round in major championship history with a birdie on the 18th:
Lowry settled for a par and a 63, but he still put himself in ideal position to seal the deal Sunday.
Given his red-hot play and supreme confidence on the big stage, Kyle Porter of CBS Sports compared Lowry moxie to that of fellow Irishman Conor McGregor:
While Saturday belonged to Lowry, the 32-year-old is far from a lock to win his first career major championship.
Lowry's closest competition is Fleetwood, who enjoyed a great third round in his own right with a five-under 66. The 28-year-old Fleetwood is in search of his first major title, and he is looking to become the first Englishman to win The Open Championship since Nick Faldo in 1992.
On Saturday, Fleetwood played relatively mistake-free golf and thrived around the greens, as evidenced by this chip, which nearly went down for eagle on No. 5:
If he can maintain that level of play Sunday, Fleetwood has a legitimate chance to chase down Lowry.
The rest of the field may need Lowry to come back to them a bit in the fourth round coupled with some big-time performances in their own right.
Holmes didn't make the type of progress he hoped with a two-under 69, but he is six shots back in third. His day wasn't without highlights, including this delicate sand save on No. 7:
At nine under, Brooks Koepka is tied for fourth, and the four-time major champion could be a threat thanks to his distance off the tee. That was on full display when he drove the green on the par-four 17th to set up a birdie:
According to Justin Ray of 15th Club, a top-three finish at Royal Portrush would be historic for Koepka:
Koepka is tied with Justin Rose, who is a one-time major winner and finished second in last year's Open Championship.
Lee Westwood is accustomed to second-place finishes in major championships, as he has three such results on his resume. With a one-under 70 in the third round, Westwood is eight shots behind Lowry in a tie for sixth.
Per Ray, Westwood can extend his record of most top-three finishes in major history without a win if he finishes second or third:
Westwood is tied with Rickie Fowler, who is arguably the best player to never win a major. He shot a five-under 66 in the third round but has plenty of work to do in order to pose a threat to Lowry:
Fowler has finished second or third in each of the four major championships.
One shot behind Fowler is Jordan Spieth, who carded a two-under 69 on Saturday. He is a three-time major champion, but adding a fourth Sunday is unlikely barring a wild turn of events.
Lowry is the unquestioned player to beat after his near-record-setting performance in the third round, and he has a nice cushion to fall back on should the weather play a factor.