PORTRUSH, Northern Ireland — The noise was unlike anything Shane Lowry had ever heard on a golf course, no surprise at the first British Open in these parts in 68 years and with an Irishman atop the leaderboard.
Lowry didn't get rattled Saturday. He only got better.
Two straight birdies around the turn to take the lead. Three straight birdies near the end to pull away. An 8-under-par 63 for his lowest round in a major tournament. A stunning back nine that gave him the 54-hole record in the British Open at 16-under 197. A four-shot lead going into the final round of what is now the year's final major.
Walking off the 17th tee at Royal Portrush Golf Club, Lowry turned to his caddie and said, "We might never have a day like this on the golf course again, so let's enjoy this."
"Honestly, that's the most incredible day I've ever had on the golf course," the 32-year-old Lowry said later. "I just can't believe what it was like."
It can get a lot better, starting with his name etched on the base of the Claret Jug. Lowry wasn't willing to look that far ahead, not with a forecast so dire the R&A moved up the starting times for the final round in an effort to avoid the worst of the heavy rain and 35 mph gusts in the forecast.
"There's no point in saying to go out and enjoy myself tomorrow, because it's going to be a very stressful and very difficult day," Lowry said. "I'm going to take the bad shots on the chin, and I'm going to take the good shots and try to capitalize on that. I'm just going to be myself and play my game and see where it leaves me."
He took a big step with a 30 on the back nine to break away from the pack for a four-shot lead over England's Tommy Fleetwood, who had a bogey-free 66 and still lost ground. J.B. Holmes, the American who shared the 36-hole lead with Lowry, couldn't keep up. No one could.
Holmes had two straight bogeys on the back nine, didn't make as many putts as the opening two rounds, but otherwise was solid for a 69 that left him alone in third at 10 under.
"It wasn't like it was terrible," Holmes said. "But when you're playing with a guy making everything, it feels like you shot a million."
The return of golf's oldest championship to Northern Ireland no longer had favorite son Rory McIlroy, who missed the cut Friday despite a valiant push. Lowry filled the void just fine.
He was on the roster with McIlroy when Ireland won the European Amateur Team Championship in 2007. Lowry didn't mind when all the British Open attention was showered on the trio of Ulstermen — McIlroy, Darren Clarke and Graeme McDowell — as Northern Ireland embraced such a special week.
"The guys are from here. I grew up four hours away," Lowry said. "I felt like I could come here and come under the radar. I'm not quite under the radar anymore. I didn't feel like a forgotten Irishman, but hopefully I'm the one they're talking about tomorrow evening."
Lowry broke by one shot the 54-hole record set by Tom Lehman in 1996 at Royal Lytham & St. Annes Golf Club in England.
The weather forecast for the final round had everyone talking at the end of the day. There's also the chance of an internal storm brewing in Lowry. He chuckled when he looked up at the scoreboard on the 18th green to see his lead at four shots, knowing the 2016 U.S. Open would be brought up.
Lowry also had a four-shot lead going into the final round of that tournament at Oakmont Country Club near Pittsburgh. He closed with a 76 as Dustin Johnson rallied to win his first and — to date — only major. The pressure figures to be even greater this time around as Lowry goes for a silver jug on the Emerald Isle.
Lowry said he learned from that day, when he wound up tied for second with Jim Furyk and Scott Piercy, how to hang in until the very end. He has matured. He has a family. And he wants to embrace the moment because "who knows when I'll be in this position again? It's taken me three years to get back here."
Fleetwood, hugely popular for his long hair flowing out of his cap and his easy nature, had his share of support. He has made only two bogeys through 54 holes yet still has to make up a significant deficit.
"You have to look at it realistically," he said. "I had a great day today. I had one of the best rounds of the day and I was bogey-free. Shane just played great and I'm four back, but that's it. I'm just happy with how I played."
Still on the fringe of contention was Brooks Koepka, No. 1 in the World Golf Ranking and a familiar face in the majors. The winner of three of the past six majors, including this year's PGA Championship, the American star couldn't get enough putts to fall and still managed a 67. He was seven shots behind, tied for fourth with England's Justin Rose (68).
"I've hit it as good as I could possibly imagine. I putted the worst in the entire field," Koepka said. "It's been really bad. Very frustrating. Disappointed. But thankfully, it's going to blow tomorrow to have any sort of chance. I need to figure out the putter."
Koepka wasn't about to concede anything at Portrush, regardless of the weather. He had a seven-shot lead in the PGA Championship in May, saw his lead shrink to one in a matter of four holes in the final round and won by two.
Rose thought he had done just enough to stay in range. When he finished, Lowry was starting to roll.
The final hour was masterful. The pin was back right on the Dunluce Links' par-3 16th known as "Calamity Corner" because it drops off some 50 feet right of the green. Lowry sent his 4-iron shot right at the flag and put the ball on the green until it settled about 10 feet away from the hole. From the light rough to the left of the fairway on the 17th, he hit a perfect chip-and-run shot to three feet out for his final birdie.
Even his 25-foot birdie putt on the 18th — giving him a chance to match Branden Grace (2017 British Open), the only golfer with a 62 in a major — looked good until it turned away.
"Every time I had a putt today, I just wanted to hole it because I wanted to hear that roar," Lowry said. "It was just incredible. It was an incredible day."
Now all that stands between Lowry and the biggest roar of all are 18 holes, tough weather and final-round pressure with the hopes of an island following him along.
Jim Herman leads at Barbasol Championship
NICHOLASVILLE, Ky. — Helped by President Donald Trump's putting advice, Jim Herman made two eagles on his way to a 10-under-par 62 Saturday, maintaining a one-stroke lead entering the final round of the PGA Tour's Barbasol Championship.
"I haven't been playing bad, I just haven't been rolling the ball very well," Herman said. "So to start seeing the balls go in, that's a confidence booster. You feel like you can make anything."
Trump's regular golf partner while working as an assistant professional at Trump National Bedminster in New Jersey, Herman changed to a conventional putting grip and clubhead at the president's suggestion after a recent round.
"He gave me a good talking-to and told me to use a different style if it's not working," Herman said Friday after shooting a second straight 65 to top the leaderboard. "Some great advice, so I appreciate it."
On Saturday, Herman made an 11-foot eagle putt on the par-5 eighth hole and a 10-footer on the par-5 15th. He also had six birdies to get to 24-under 192 at rain-softened Keene Trace Golf Club.
"I thought the last two days were good, but improved on it," Herman said. "You just know that you've got to go low. No lead is safe, so you've got to keep the pedal down and see how many birdies you can make."
Kelly Kraft was second after a course-record 61. He also eagled the 15th, holing a 65-footer.
"It was a fun day," Kraft said. "The hole looked big with the putter. I had a lot of looks. I felt like I was making putts on every hole. It was just one of those days. The putter heated up, and it was a lot of fun."
Encouraged by Trump to pursue a playing career, Herman won the 2016 Shell Houston Open for his lone PGA Tour title — a victory that followed a friendly round with Trump.
"I'm just driving the ball well. Have had a really good iron game the last three days. And I'm rolling the ball really well," the 41-year-old Cincinnati native said. "So any time you can have those three, you're going to be in good shape, so it's a great place. I guess the tee shots line up for me, and I'm reading the greens really well."
Austin Cook (63) and Bill Haas (65) were four strokes back in third. Haas saved par with a 20-footer on the par-4 18th after driving into the water.
"Disappointed at that tee shot," Haas said "That's my miss. When I seem to get ahead of it a little bit, I hit it right. It's not the best finishing hole for me with water right, but I felt comfortable over it, just overcut it a little bit, pushed it."
Tied for fifth at 17 under were Sebastian Munoz (66), Sepp Straka (63) and Josh Teater (64).
Chattanooga's Stephan Jaeger shot a 65 to jump 30 spots up the leaderboard. The former Baylor School and University of Tennessee at Chattanooga standout was tied for 14th at 13 under after a round in which he offset two bogeys with seven birdies and an eagle on the par-5 fifth. He made an eagle for the second straight day, with Friday's on No. 15.
Harris English, another former Baylor standout, eagled No. 15 on Saturday on his way to a 68 that included four birdies and two bogeys. He was tied for 37th at 10 under.
David Toms had been just two shots back after a second-round 64, but his 73 dropped him into a tie for 32nd at 11 under. The 52-year-old American is making his third PGA Tour start of the season.
Auburn alum Cydney Clanton represents
MIDLAND, Mich. — American golfer Cydney Clanton and Thailand's Jasmine Suwannapura ran away with the Great Lakes Bay Invitational on Saturday, shooting an 11-under 59 in better-ball play for a six-stroke victory over Jin Young Ko and Minjee Lee.
Clanton and Suwannapura took a five-shot lead into the final round after posting an alternate-shot round of 63 on Friday at Midland Country Club in the LPGA Tour's first-year team event. They finished at 27-under 253.
"It's pretty awesome," Suwannapura said. "I couldn't ask for a better partner."
It's the second LPGA Tour title for Suwannapura, who won the Marathon Classic last year. It's the first for Clanton, who earned spots the next two weeks in the Evian Championship and the Women's British Open, both major tournaments.
The first former Auburn University player to win on the tour, Clanton began the season without a full LPGA Tour card after finishing $8 out of the top 100 on the 2018 money list. She has split time this year on the top-tier women's circuit and the developmental Symetra Tour, winning the El Dorado Shootout in April.
"I couldn't even dream up to have won a Symetra event earlier this year and then to come out and win with Jasmine," Clanton said. "It's so funny — this is the tournament that I wanted to come and play in. I was like, 'Team event, I'm in, let's go.' So I'm blessed for the opportunity, I'm blessed that Jasmine came and let me come play with her."
South Korea's Ko and Australia's Lee closed with a 58.
"We both played better than we did the last time (in the same format)," Lee said. "We just had a better rhythm out there. I think we just fed off each other. Jin Young had so many birdies today, so I just tried to keep up, pretty much."
Clanton and Suwannapura were both rookies in 2012.
"I've had full status before, but it will allow for me to kind of sit back and relax a little bit and kind of set my own schedule," Clanton said. "I think it's just going to free me up because it's been something that I've been working on. I guess I was quite down for the first couple years."
Clanton and Suwannapura each bogeyed the first hole Saturday, then each had eight birdies.
"Felt pretty good on the first tee," Clanton said. "Didn't hit a great shot into the green, but I'm not going to lie, the majority of my rounds start with bogeys. So I told Jasmine, I was like, 'Dude, we're ready. We're ready to go. We got it out of the way. We'll go low.'"
Ariya Jutanugarn and Moriya Jutanugarn, the standout sisters from Thailand, tied for third with South Korea's Na Yeon Choi and Jenny Shin at 20 under. Both teams closed with a 61. Canadian teammates Brooke Henderson and Alena Sharp were fifth at 19 under after a 61.