Hopes for an Irish one-two alive and well at the Scottish Open

Mark McGowan
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Rory McIlroy (Photo by Octavio Passos/Getty Images)

Rory McIlroy will take a one-stroke lead into the final round of the Genesis Scottish Open at The Renaissance Club, but Shane Lowry is hot on his heels and hopes for another Irish one-two are very much alive.

Starting the day at -10, McIlroy got off to the perfect start with a pinpoint wedge to tap-in range and added two more birdies on the front nine to make the turn at three under for the day and -13 for the week.

After a lengthy delay on the 10th tee as Sam Burns in the group ahead sought a ruling in a fairway bunker, McIlroy piped a drive down the centre and an incredible second shot provided an eight-foot eagle look, but despite failing to convert, the simple birdie moved him to -14 and into a two-stroke lead.

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From there, things got a little sloppy. As the gusting wind strengthened slightly, his approach play suffered and bogeys at 12 and 15 were largely due to poor distance control and his putter failing to get him out of jail. In the meantime, he would roll in a 15-footer at 14 to maintain sole possession of the lead, but when he’d eventually sign for a three-under 67 which sees him on -13, he’ll feel it could and possibly should be a couple of strokes better.

“Yeah, it was good,” McIlroy said afterwards. “It was another really good round of golf. Very solid. I feel like I’ve left a few out there over the last couple of days, but at the same time, at least the last few holes, it was quite tricky conditions.

“I played well. It’s been a good three days and looking forward to obviously being in the final group tomorrow and seeing how my game holds up under that sort of pressure.”

Despite the missed opportunities, he’s satisfied with the week’s work to this point. “I’m still in a really good position,” he explained. “As I said, I feel like I’ve left a few out there but I mean, it’s hard to be disappointed when you’re in the lead going into the final day. I’ll certainly take it.”

Tom Kim is the nearest challenger on -12 after matching McIlroy’s 67, with Tommy Fleetwood one further adrift on -11. The Englishman scythed through the field with a seven-under 63, and will join McIlroy and Kim in the final group.

Lowry, who shot his second successive 65 to move into a share of fifth at -10 will play alongside Scottie Scheffler and Byeong Hun An in the third-to-last group. The Offalyman carded five birdies, an eagle and two bogeys as he roared into contention and with heavy winds expected for Sunday’s final round, is highly fancied to contend coming down the stretch.

After rounds of 67 and 66 on days one and two, Padraig Harrington couldn’t build on his seven-under total and his level-par 70 saw him drop to tied 18th. The Dubliner traded two bogeys with two birdies, but it was his approach play that let him down, losing two-and-a-half strokes to the field.

Tom McKibbin’s hopes of securing one of three Open Championship exemptions are still alive after the DP World Tour rookie from Holywood moved up 20 spots on the leaderboard with a three-under 67.

Having made the cut on the number, there are just 12 non-exempt players ahead of him in the Open Championship running and with difficult conditions forecast, another good round could catapult him up the board and secure one of the final three spots for next week’s staging at Royal Liverpool.

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