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‘I will play my heart out’: Louis Oosthuizen eyes up second win at The Open while Rory McIlroy’s Major drought goes on

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Louis Oosthuizen of South Africa watches his shot from the 18th tee during Day Three of The 149th Open at Royal St George’s Golf Club on July 17, 2021 in Sandwich, England.

Louis Oosthuizen of South Africa watches his shot from the 18th tee during Day Three of The 149th Open at Royal St George’s Golf Club on July 17, 2021 in Sandwich, England.

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Rory McIlroy.

Rory McIlroy.

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Shane Lowry of Ireland plays his shot from the first tee during Day Three of The 149th Open at Royal St George’s Golf Club on July 17, 2021 in Sandwich, England.

Shane Lowry of Ireland plays his shot from the first tee during Day Three of The 149th Open at Royal St George’s Golf Club on July 17, 2021 in Sandwich, England.

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Corey Conners of Canada plays a shot on the eighth hole during Day Three of The 149th Open at Royal St George’s Golf Club on July 17, 2021 in Sandwich, England.

Corey Conners of Canada plays a shot on the eighth hole during Day Three of The 149th Open at Royal St George’s Golf Club on July 17, 2021 in Sandwich, England.

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Collin Morikawa of the United States lines up a putt during Day Three of The 149th Open at Royal St George’s Golf Club on July 17, 2021 in Sandwich, England.

Collin Morikawa of the United States lines up a putt during Day Three of The 149th Open at Royal St George’s Golf Club on July 17, 2021 in Sandwich, England.

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Louis Oosthuizen of South Africa watches his shot from the 18th tee during Day Three of The 149th Open at Royal St George’s Golf Club on July 17, 2021 in Sandwich, England.

Rory McIlroy’s Major drought will stretch to seven years today, but Louis Oosthuizen will have a chance to put a year of Major pain behind him after digging deep down the stretch to take a one-stroke lead into the final round of The Open at Royal St George’s.

The 38-year-old South African took his tally of runner-up finishes to six when he finished second in the PGA Championship and the US Open earlier this season.

But he now has a chance to put those disappointments behind him after he regrouped following a back nine wobble and carded a one-under 69 to lead by one stroke from American Collin Morikawa on 12 under par.

Jordan Spieth bogeyed his last two holes, missing a two-footer at the 18th, to shoot 69 and trail Oosthuizen by three shots on nine under.

Champion at St Andrews in 2010, Oosthuizen is bidding to complete a wire-to-wire win, but after making birdies at the seventh and ninth to go two clear on a day of challenging pin positions and more difficult scoring, he was caught by Spieth and then by playing partner Morikawa, who played his last 12 holes in four under to post an impressive 68.

As Morikawa closed, Oosthuizen gave the chasing pack hope when he bogeyed the 11th and 13th and failed to birdie the par-five 14th.

But he made a clutch eight-foot putt for par at the 15th, then rolled in a crucial seven-footer for a two at the 16th to regain the lead.

“I had a few loose swings before that on my iron shots and sort of needed that little boost and made a really good swing on 16 and a few good ones coming in,” Oosthuizen said. “Yeah, happy with the lead, and need to play some good golf tomorrow.”

Asked what he could take from his near misses, he said: “Go one better. You know, finishing second isn’t great, so I will play my heart out tomorrow and see if I can lift the Claret Jug again.”

Canadian Corey Conners shot 66 and Scottie Scheffler a 68 to lie just four off the lead on eight under with Spain’s Jon Rahm a shot further back alongside Mackenzie Hughes and Dylan Frittelli after a 68.

As for McIlroy, he needed a miracle to get to the fringes of contention, and while he got off to a marvellous start, racing to the turn in four-under 31, a missed three-footer for par at the 11th halted his momentum and he lurched home in 38, carding a 69 to share 41st on one under.

“Sort of a tale of two nines,” reported the Holywood star, who knocked in a nine-footer at the first and a 30-footer at the fourth before following a three-putt bogey at the fifth with superb birdies at the short sixth, the par-five seventh and the ninth.

“I played great on the front nine, hit some really good iron shots and converted some putts and really got it going.

“Then the back nine played tough. They’re sort of tucking the pins away. They’ve stretched the golf course out to as long as it can play.

“I was hitting two-iron into the 11th hole, that par-three, and I missed a short putt there for par and it kind of killed the momentum I had.”

Following his miss at the 11th, McIlroy missed a 10-footer for birdie at the 12th and frustration soon took over.

He bogeyed the 13th after tangling with the rough, then hooked an iron into the rough from the 14th tee and flung the offending weapon into the turf in disgust.

He did well to salvage a par five, getting up and down from greenside sand, but lipped out for par from short range at the 15th.

“Not birdieing the par-five (14th) and making another couple bogeys on the way in, certainly it felt like a better round than one under par, but it was encouraging to see some of the golf that I played on that front nine,” he added

The World No.11 has struggled to find his best form since winning the Wells Fargo Championship at Quail Hollow 10 weeks ago, but he’s not despondent.

“It’s just a matter of trying to keep that going and try to turn those nine-hole stretches into 18-hole stretches, and then those 18-hole stretches into whole tournaments. It’s getting there.

“I wish I had kept it going, but there were flashes of things out there I was really encouraged by, and I have to be encouraged by that and go out tomorrow and try and shoot a good score.”

Defending champion Shane Lowry goes into the final round just seven behind, but while he holed birdie putts at the 16th and 17th and another 10-footer for par at the last, he was somewhat frustrated only to shoot 69.

“I have mixed emotions to be honest because I played great,” Lowry said. “I left a lot of shots out there. One under was probably the worst score I could have shot.

“I’m not sure I can win from here, but the way I’m playing, I can shoot six under. If 10, 11 under is the winning score, yes, I can win. I think the winning score is probably going to be better than that. But who knows.”

Two-time winner Pádraig Harrington double-bogeyed the 18th and shot 73 to slip back to 64th on three over.


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