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Rory McIlroy builds 6-shot lead at British Open

Digital Drive: Rory Runs Away


By DOUG FERGUSON

HOYLAKE, England (AP) -- Rory McIlroy looks as if he has just thrown a knockout punch at the British Open, and it was only Saturday.

When he rolled in a 10-foot eagle putt on the final hole for a 4-under 68, he straightened his back, stared defiantly at thousands of fans crammed into the horseshoe arena around the 18th green at Royal Liverpool and lightly pumped his fist.

He went from being tied for the lead to six shots ahead of Rickie Fowler in just over an hour.

And suddenly, the biggest challenge facing the 25-year-old from Northern Ireland was reminding himself that he had one more round left.

McIlroy can't afford to picture his name etched on the base of that silver claret jug. He can't think about what it will be like next April to drive down Magnolia Lane at Augusta National with a shot at becoming the sixth player to capture the career Grand Slam.

"I'm not taking anything for granted," McIlroy said.

He knows that from experience, good and bad. He blew a four-shot lead at the Masters in 2011 and shot 80 in the final round. He had an eight-shot lead at the U.S. Open two months later and set two scoring records to win by eight. And just two months ago, McIlroy came from seven shots behind to win by seven.

It looks like a lost cause for Fowler, Sergio Garcia and anyone else trying to chase down a guy who has won both his majors by eight shots. The six-shot lead was the largest at The Open since Tiger Woods led by six at St. Andrews in 2000.

Even so, McIlroy was doing his best to preach caution.

"A lot can happen," he said. "And I've been on the right side of it and I've been on the wrong side of it. You can't let yourself think forward. You've just got to completely stay in the moment, and that's what I'm going to try to do for all 18 holes tomorrow."

History is on his side.

No one has ever lost a six-shot lead in the 121 years that The Open has been contested over 72 holes. Boy Wonder would not seem to be a candidate.

"What you have with him is he's just so explosive," Jim Furyk said after a 71 left him 10 shots behind. "He won the U.S. Open by eight shots. He obviously doesn't have any issue as the front-runner, and has no issue trying to extend that lead, much like Tiger used to."

McIlroy was at 16-under 200.

"If I'm able to go out and get off to a good start, maybe I can put a little bit of pressure on him," Fowler said after a 68. "Because he's definitely in control of the golf tournament right now."

Fowler tried to do his part on a cloudy Saturday with occasional rain, but not nearly what the R&A expected when it went to a two-tee start of the first time in history. Fowler, who was six shots behind going into the third round, ran off three straight birdies to start the back nine and shared the lead when McIlroy made bogey on No. 12.

It all changed so quickly.

Fowler made a bogey on the 14th hole. McIlroy, playing in the group behind, drilled a 35-foot birdie putt that put his lead back to two shots.

"Rickie was just getting close to me," McIlroy said. "I could hear the cheers in front of me. I just wanted to get ahead. To hole a putt like that was huge."

And that's when he turned it on.

McIlroy blasted a drive on the par-5 16th hole and hit 4-iron from 252 yards over a pot bunker to the left side of the green and made a 15-foot eagle putt. That restored his lead to five shots, for Fowler had driven into a pot bunker and made a bogey.

Fowler recovered with a superb shot out of the pot bunker on the 18th to tap-in range for birdie. That put the American into the final group for the second straight major, both times a long way out of the lead. He trailed Martin Kaymer by five shots going into the last day of the U.S. Open at Pinehurst No. 2.

Fowler didn't get closer than four shots from Kaymer in the final round.

Garcia, who played in final group with Woods at Royal Liverpool in 2006, certainly had his chances. He was only three shots behind at the turn until missing a short birdie putt on No. 12 and failing to convert so many other chances. Garcia had a 69 and was seven shots behind, along with Dustin Johnson (71).

"It's going to be difficult," Garcia said. "But we'll give it a shot."

This was Rory's show, just like it was at Congressional, just like it was at Kiawah Island when he won the 2012 PGA Championship.

And yet the biggest crowd belonged to Woods, the sport's biggest star who is playing his first major since back surgery four months ago. Woods narrowly made the cut on Friday, opened with two straight birdies and that was about all the excitement. He made another double bogey, another triple bogey and shot 73.

Woods was 19 shots out of the lead.

The biggest challenge for McIlroy might be to avoid looking ahead. It was hard. Asked what it would mean to be one major away from a Grand Slam at 25, McIlroy said, "It would mean a lot of hype going into Augusta next year."

"I'd be in pretty illustrious company," he said.

Join the discussion

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jet202 July 18 2014 at 6:00 PM

Can we stop with the Tiger Tiger Tiger garbage. How about giving the new kids their due and stop lamenting over the old, over the hill, foul-mouthed ho chaser. enough already

Flag Reply +26 rate up
1 reply
phd jet202 July 18 2014 at 6:56 PM

Good point. But that would require the so called journalists to extracate themselves from the politicially correct coverage of Woods.

Flag Reply +5 rate up
1 reply
pjchilds phd July 19 2014 at 9:45 AM

Careful there PHD. You're getting pretty close to being branded as a racist, bigot, homophobic right winger who still clings to his God and his guns.

Flag 0 rate up
skidrowtom July 18 2014 at 5:21 PM

Cover the leaders. Show pictures of the leaders. To hell with Eldrick Woods and his foul mouth mired in 57th place.

Flag Reply +19 rate up
1 reply
rude skidrowtom July 18 2014 at 11:04 PM

Especially since Dustin Johnson is in 2nd place.

Flag Reply +1 rate up
Anita July 18 2014 at 5:59 PM

I absolutely LOVE it when he loses...because whether or not he wins in golf....he loses in life! He can no
longer win!

Flag Reply +18 rate up
Dan Buswell July 18 2014 at 5:20 PM

oh boy oh boy, poor tigger, yea his back hurts, go pay for a ho

Flag Reply +18 rate up
hrdbal51 July 18 2014 at 6:00 PM

Can we stop talking about Woods....my God, there are so many players better than he is. Focus on them.

Flag Reply +17 rate up
1 reply
AOL is the Worst hrdbal51 July 18 2014 at 8:10 PM

Quite true.
He had his day and now he is past his
prime. He cheated on his wife and now it
has come back to haunt him. What goes
around, comes around.
I am sure he still has a tidy some tucked
away somewhere to get them tough times. He is not homeless yet.

Flag Reply +4 rate up
dhsdome July 18 2014 at 6:13 PM

Like many pro athletes his professional career started going down the drain when he couldn't control his personal life.

Flag Reply +16 rate up
mk8302 July 18 2014 at 5:55 PM

THIS GUY IS DONE...MEDIA LET HIM GO THERE IS MORE TO GOLF THAN THIS GUY

Flag Reply +15 rate up
bailey.willie July 18 2014 at 5:34 PM

WHAT'S HIS EXCUSE GOING TO BE NOW. I HAVE TO PLAY GOLF WITH OBAMA. BOTH OF THEM ARE HAS BEENS. TIME FOR BOTH OF THEMK TO RETIRE FROM THEIR CURRENT JOBS. TIGER CHASES WOMEN WHILE OBAMA IS SIGNING AN EXECUTIVE ORDER ABOUT DISCRIMINATION IN THE WORK PLACE FOR LGBT. OF WHICH HE AND MOOOOCHIE FIT IN WITH. THE G'S AND T'S PACK IT IN TIGER

Flag Reply +14 rate up
4 replies
tneill1031 July 18 2014 at 6:16 PM

Poor Tiger, this is just TOOOO funny!

Flag Reply +13 rate up
crowland503 July 18 2014 at 5:23 PM

A shame Tiger's days are at an end; and this "paper tiger" might find it better to set in his rocker on the porch, knitting a sweater, and tell the well wishers about his hay days on and off the...

Flag Reply +12 rate up
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