Harman takes five-shot lead into final round of Open

Tommy Fleetwood and Brian Harman walking together at The Open
Fleetwood’s challenge failed to get going, while Harman maintained his five-shot advantage

Brian Harman responded superbly to Jon Rahm’s Royal Liverpool Open course-record 63 to maintain his stranglehold on the championship in Hoylake.

He takes a five-shot lead into Sunday’s last round over fellow American Cameron Young, who is seven under after a 66.

Rahm, who finished before Harman began, hit a bogey-free eight-under round to post six under and exert some pressure.

But Harman improved to 12 under with a 69, while Tommy Fleetwood’s challenge stalled with a level-par 71.

Fleetwood had been Harman’s closest rival at halfway but the home favourite, who hails from 30 miles up the Merseyside coast, was the only player in the top 20 not to break par on a day where the forecast heavy rain and high winds largely stayed away.

Harman, who has held the 54-hole lead in a major once before – at the 2017 US Open, where he finished joint second – bogeyed the first and another dropped shot at the fourth saw his lead cut to two.

But from there the world number 26 played uncomplicated golf, picking up birdies with short putts on the fifth and ninth holes before adding two more at the 12th and 13th.

He is yet to miss a putt from inside 10 feet this week, and holed a par-saver at the last from eight.

Harman will play the final round with Young, who shot a seven-under-par final round at last year’s Open to finish runner-up.

The 26-year-old’s five-under-par round featured six birdies and just one bogey as he again put himself in position to challenge.

Fleetwood is still joint fourth and in a group of five at five under par. Norway’s Viktor Hovland made the biggest move to get to that number, posting a 66, while France’s Antoine Rozner (67), Austria’s Sepp Straka (70) and Australia’s Jason Day (69) complete the quintet.

Rahm’s sensational round

Spaniard Rahm, who won the Masters in April to add to his 2021 US Open victory, started the third round on two over par, 12 shots adrift of Harman and frustrated with his poor form on the greens this week.

But a birdie putt of 10 feet on the fifth ignited his charge up the leaderboard. Then came a run of four successive birdies from the ninth, with putts of 22 and 14 feet followed by two shorter ones on the 11th and 12th holes.

A 33-foot birdie on the 16th was the highlight as he picked up three more shots in his closing four holes.

Rahm blocked out noise from the nearby first tee, where Harman and Fleetwood were just setting off, to knock in from 11 feet on the last, and the adulation he received will have easily drifted back.

“That was the best round I’ve played on a links golf course ever,” said Rahm. “It feels really good, but there’s still a lot of work to do.”

Home challenge fades

Rahm’s mood was in complete contrast to Rory McIlroy, who opted to skip speaking to the media and head to the putting green after missing seven birdie attempts of 17 feet or less.

The Northern Irishman birdied three of his first five holes and missed birdie chances on the other two. And that proved the story of his round as he posted a two-under-par 69 – his best round of the week – to improve to three under but his quest to add to his four majors will drift into a 10th year.

Fleetwood’s challenge also appears to be over. A birdie at the second, coupled with Harman’s opening bogey, briefly brought him to within three but it would prove to be his only one of the day, a solitary dropped shot on the 10th cancelling that out.

England’s Alex Fitzpatrick will have the family bragging rights at the dinner table this evening after three birdies in his 65 lifted him to four under, two better than his older brother and 2022 US Open champion Matt, who posted a 67.

And Matthew Jordan’s fairytale home Open continued. The 27-year-old, who hit his first chip at Royal Liverpool at the age of three and followed his dad and grandad in becoming a member at the age of seven, birdied four of his final five holes for a 69 and three under total.

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