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Most incredible day: Shane Lowry creates Irish golfing folklore with Saturday 63 to take four shot lead into final round of The Open at Royal Portrush

Ireland's Shane Lowry celebrates after winning the third round of the British Open golf Championships at Royal Portrush golf club in Northern Ireland on July 20, 2019. (Photo by Paul ELLIS / AFP) / RESTRICTED TO EDITORIAL USEPAUL ELLIS/AFP/Getty Images
Ireland's Shane Lowry celebrates after winning the third round of the British Open golf Championships at Royal Portrush golf club in Northern Ireland on July 20, 2019. (Photo by Paul ELLIS / AFP) / RESTRICTED TO EDITORIAL USEPAUL ELLIS/AFP/Getty Images
Gareth Hanna

By Gareth Hanna

It's arguably the biggest day, and most impressive performance, in Irish golfing history.

And it could be surpassed within 24 hours.

Shane Lowry shot eight under par on Royal Portrush's Dunluce Links on Saturday evening, taking a four shot lead into the final round of the 148th Open Championship.

A fairytale.

Little wonder the 43,500 capacity crowd roared and sang to carry their man from the first tee to the scorer's hut. That name - Shane Lowry - even rang around the 18th cauldron long after he had holed his final putt.

"That's the most incredible day I've ever had on the golf course," he said, perhaps stating the obvious.

"I can't explain what it was like. I suppose the only way is to say I'm not sure, well hopefully tomorrow, but I was saying to Bo (Brian Martin - cadie) on 17, we might never have a day like this on the golf course again. Just enjoy it.

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"The crowd were incredible. I can't believe it. It was quite difficult for (JB Holmes, playing partner who shot a two under par 69) but I found it ok.

"I thought I dealt with it very well. Walking to the green the people are a yard away from you screaming at you as loud as they can and then you have to drive down a narrow fairway."

And yet he managed it impeccably, missing just a single green. Even then, he got up and down from a difficult spot on 14 to protect his blemish-free record.

It was an all-but flawless round of golf, on Saturday of The Open, at Royal Portrush.

Lowry managed to birdie six of his last 10 holes, including a stunning two at Calamity Corner, the notorious par three 16th, after hitting a dart of a four-iron 236 yards to within ten feet.

"I'll not lie, I pushed it about five yards," he smiled, having sensibly aimed at the heart of the green rather than at the tough back-right pin, with the chasm lurking nearby

"To roll the putt was special. Every time I had a putt, I wanted to hole it because I wanted to hear that roar.

"I'm after shooting 63," he said, as if convincing himself of its truth. "It's one of the best scores I've ever shot."

It's one of the best scores ever shot in Irish golf. Just two worse than Rory McIlroy's Royal Portrush course record 61.

Taking into account the new holes as well as, of course, the incredible stage, it's even more impressive.

Yet for all of that hard work. He knows this isn't over.

And the party in the Harbour Bar on Saturday evening should bear it in mind.

In fact, this is not the first time Lowry has held a four shot lead going into the final round of a major championship. At the 2016 US Open, he was clear by the same distance before shooting a six over par 76 to finish three behind Dustin Johnson.

"I suppose, let's get it out in the open, I learned a lot about myself," he said of that fateful Sunday in Pennsylvania. "I was waiting for (this question). I said to Bo walking off 18; 'A four shot lead, at least I won't have to answer questions about Oakmont.'

"I'm going to learn a lot about myself tomorrow too. It's a huge day in my career but it doesn't mean as much to me as it did then and that will make it a bit easier.

"It means an awful lot," he doubled back, careful not to sound as though he was somehow uncaring of his position.

"If I'm here tomorrow it's one of the biggest things ever to happen to me but at the time in Oakmont, my golf meant more than it does now.

"I've got certain things in my life now, a family. Whatever I shoot, my two year old will be waiting for me. Maybe that's why. It's weird to say. I don't really know what I'm saying to be honest. It's been a long day. You get me," he laughed.

It made sense. Those are the words, and presence of mind, of a man who has his priorities set and his thoughts in check.

He'll need all of that maturity on Sunday, with poor weather to come in and the tee-times pushed forward.

Lowry hits off, alongside Fleetwood, at 1.47pm in what he knows will be the biggest day of his golfing life.

"Tomorrow is going to be a difficult day with bad weather coming in but I'm in a good position," he said. "I just have to do what I've been doing. Hopefully that's good enough.

"Tommy Fleetwood grew up in Southport so he has played in bad weather. Brooks (Koepka) is there. There's a good leaderboard. We'll see. I know it's going to rain but I have to shoot the best score I can."

There may be a strong leaderboard. But for the 43,500 fans who will once again pour through the Royal Portrush gates on Sunday morning, only one man matters.

It's the Offaly lad four shots clear, with history, and the greatest day in Irish golf, in his sights.

Belfast Telegraph Digital


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