Late flurry puts McIlroy on the brink

If anyone can stop Rory McIlroy then it's going to be Rickie Fowler
If anyone can stop Rory McIlroy then it's going to be Rickie Fowler
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Rory McIlroy will go into the final round at The Open with a six stroke lead after withstanding a birdie onslaught from American Rickie Fowler.

Fowler briefly joined McIlroy in a share of the lead following a run of three birdies after the turn but the Irishman responded well with two majestic eagles in the closing three holes.

Rory McIlroy survived a storm of birdies from Rickie Fowler at Hoylake to move to within touching distance of a third major title.

Fowler briefly joined McIlroy in a share of the lead following a run of three birdies after the turn but the Irishman responded well with two majestic eagles in the closing three holes.

It means McIlroy will carry a six-shot lead into Sunday's final round on 16-under par, with Fowler one shot clear of Sergio Garcia and Dustin Johnson in third.

With the threat of storms at Hoylake on Saturday, the Open Championship for the very first time witnessed players beginning from the tenth tee.

Playing in groups of three, the leaders teed off just after 11am in an effort to beat the weather.

Fowler made the first significant move, picking up four birdies in the opening six holes.

McIlroy meanwhile was enduring a slow start.

After dropping a shot at the first, he made a single birdie on the front nine at the par-five 5th hole.

McIlroy was forced to remain patient, with playing partners Johnson and Francesco Molinari making seven bogeys between them on the front nine.

Garcia also bogeyed the opener but the Spaniard battled back admirably making four birdies to turn in 32.

The championship was about to come to life as Fowler racked up a terrific hat-trick of birdies to start the inward nine that saw him join McIlroy, who bogeyed the 12th, at the top.

With the pressure mounting and questions being asked, McIlroy responded with his third birdie at the 14th - where Fowler dropped a shot after an errant drive.

That allowed the momentum to really shift back in McIlroy's favour and he was about to hammer home the advantage in breathtaking fashion.

The leader launched a couple of power-packed drives down the 16th and 18th holes leaving irons into both par-fives.

A 25-foot eagle putt on 16 forged a five-shot lead and, after bogeying the 17th, McIlroy hit a 220 yard 5-iron to around ten feet on the closing hole and duly made another eagle.

The closing flurry really spread-eagled the field and the chasing pack look to be playing for places on Sunday with McIlroy closing in on his third major title.

He will emulate Jack Nicklaus and Tiger Woods in securing a trio of major titles by the age of 25 should be complete the job.

Fowler's round somewhat came apart after the bogey at the 14th, with further dropped shots at 16 and 17.

The American did manage to birdie the closing hole to seal his place in the final pairing for Sunday afternoon.

Behind the leading quartet, Victor Dubuisson, Edoardo Molinari and Matteo Manassero all made forward moves thanks to third round 68's.

Dubuisson and Molinari complete the top six, while Manassero shares seventh with Adam Scott, Charl Schwartzel, Jim Furyk and Robert Karlsson on six-under par.

Former champion Darren Clarke showed his love for the worsening weather by carding a joint best-of-the-day 67 to move into a group of seven players on five-under par.

Graeme McDowell (68), Justin Rose (69) and Marc Leishman(70) are among those joining Clarke.

McIlroy protested to the media afterwards that the job is not yet complete but it certainly looks as though he has one hand on the Claret Jug already.

Can anyone spring from the pack on Sunday afternoon at Hoylake and jolt the leader from the comfort zone he has been operating in.

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