Sharvin best of home hopefuls as Herbert homes in on wire-to-wire win

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Sharvin best of home hopefuls as Herbert homes in on wire-to-wire win

Lucas Herbert (Photo by Warren Little/Getty Images)

Cormac Sharvin fared best of Ireland’s moving day quartet as Lucas Herbert edged closer to becoming just the third Australian winner in the Irish Open’s 94-year history, and the first wire-to-wire winner since 2014.

First, 28-year old Sharvin outshone the likes of Rory McIlroy and Shane Lowry on day three at Mount Juliet, posting a bogey-free three-under par 69 to move into a tie for 21st, eight shots back of Hebert’s 15-under par lead.

Graeme McDowell was the next best of the home contingent, recovering from three successive bogeys to start his third round to play his next 15 holes in a bogey-free five-under. That all added up to a round of 70; GMac in a tie for 35th at five-under.

However, for those hoping for a big charge from Ireland’s leading duo, McIlroy and Lowry, they would’ve left Mount Juliet disappointed. World number 10 McIlroy could only manage four birdies amongst a bogey and two doubles in his 73 as he dropped to four-under par.

“I hit a great drive off 1. A good pitch shot, and then, yeah, I guess missing that putt, yeah, I struggled on the greens this week,” McIlroy admitted. “It’s so hard to get myself to not read as much break into them as I’m seeing just because of the surfaces and because of the speed of them, they just don’t take the breaks as much as what I’m maybe used to.

“So it’s very hard to see a putt that I would maybe usually hit outside the hole and then having to keep it inside the hole. My instinct is, geez, I feel like I’m low here but I have to trust — I should have it figured out by St. George’s.”

Lowry carded a shot more, his 74 seeing him drop out of contention at three-under: “It was just a struggle,” Lowry said. “Bad start, hard when you go out trying to shoot a number and get off to that start. Silly shot on the third and followed up with a bad bogey on 4 and then it’s kind of from there, you’re behind the black ball and you’re chasing and things weren’t going my way. I wasn’t holing putts or hitting great shots. I was a bit in between.

“Difficult day but sure, look, I’m going to have those. I’ll have plenty of those again. Just have to chin up now and move on. Not much more I can say about it. It just wasn’t a great day. It was one of those where I tried my best, I gave it my all and it just wasn’t good enough.”

It’s another budding star, 25-year-old Herbert, who has long been tipped for big things in the game and his maiden European Tour victory at the 2020 Omega Dubai Desert Classic confirmed his prodigious talent. He now stands on the brink of winning one of the Europe’s most historic national opens, and he would join Ossie Pickworth (1950) and Brett Rumford (2004) as Australian winners of the prestigious title.

He looked to be steaming clear of the chasing pack midway through round three at Mount Juliet Estate, opening up a three-stroke advantage after a stunning opening ten holes which yielded four birdies without a single dropped shot.

The Victoria player struggled, however, to adjust to the swirling winds in the late afternoon and a pair of bogeys on the 11th and 14th holes pulled him back toward the rest of the field on a 15 under total, as he signed for a two under third round 70. Mikko Ilonen of Finland was the last wire-to-wire winner of this event back in 2014.

“I played okay,” said Herbert. “In one aspect, it’s kind of frustrating. I could have really put a good one away and felt like I got too far away from the majority of the field, but 15 probably has just left the door open a touch.

“So still going to have to really be on it tomorrow. Also it was pretty tough out there. The back nine, the wind was swirling and blowing a lot. Didn’t hit a lot of bad shots, couldn’t quite get some putts to fall. Felt like I maybe played all right but just didn’t get the reward for it. But I can’t be too upset.”

As for his hopes of adding the famous crystal to his trophy cabinet, Herbert was aware of the size of the opportunity at hand.

“The Irish Open is pretty cool and if you can win an event with Tommy Fleetwood and Rory McIlroy in the field, I don’t think anyone’s going to try to knock that out of your possession any time soon,” he added.

“So tomorrow is a massive chance, and obviously I think in time to come I’ll probably look back on it and realise it more, but at the moment, I’m trying to stay pretty focused on the moment and really feel like I just play my game and let that sort of take care of itself.”

Johannes Veerman of the USA will be harbouring hopes of a dream maiden title as he sits one shot back following a five under 67, while South African Justin Harding is two shots further back on 12 under after a stunning 65 early in the day – the 35-year-old already has one win under his belt this season at the Magical Kenya Open presented by Johnnie Walker.

Former Ryder Cup players Tommy Fleetwood and Thomas Pieters lie six shots off the pace in a share of 12th position.

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