Viktor Hovland fought throughout Saturday’s third round to break away from the rest of the field. They are now co-leaders, with four shots between them.
McIlroy, the four-time major champion from Northern Ireland, and Hovland, the rising star from Norway, carded matching rounds of 6-under 66 Saturday to finish the day at 16 under par. McIlroy delighted fans with his daring escape from the pot bunker to score an eagle at No. 10.
Both men birdied No. 18 to polish off their rounds and set up a Sunday showdown at the 150th playing of The Open.
Australia’s Cameron Smith was leading after two rounds, but couldn’t keep the putter going Saturday. He shot a 1-over 73.. He and playing partner Cameron Young (71) ended up tied for third at 12 under.
World No. 1 Scottie Scheffler (69) and South Korea’s Si Woo Kim (67) were tied for fifth at 11 under. Dustin Johnson settled for a 71 for seventh place at 10 under.
McIlroy is yet to win a major championship since 2014.. After top-10 finishes at the Masters, PGA Championship and U.S. Open earlier this year, the 33-year-old once again finds himself in position to end his drought.
Smith putted three times for bogey at the first hole, and Hovland made four consecutive birdies at Nos. He was able to catch him at 3-6. Hovland tied Smith at the fourth hole when he made a tough 42-foot birdie putt sweeping right to left over a mound. A 19-footer at No. The Norwegian had a two shot advantage with 6
McIlroy birdied Nos. As the turning began, the players made their turn. McIlroy birdied Nos. 5, 6, and 9. McIlroy drove into a pot bunker at the short par-4 10th, but he lofted his second shot on line with the pin and it rolled in for eagle.
The shot vaulted McIlroy past Hovland to 15 under, but moments later Hovland converted a birdie to tie the lead. McIlroy’s two-putt birdie at the par-5 14th restored his advantage.
At the challenging No. 17, the “Road Hole,” both players’ drives missed the fairway and their approaches sailed over the green. McIlroy got bogey while Hovland hit his third shot off the walking path for a par saving of 4 feet.
Young and Smith each made a costly double-bogey on their back nines, which severely damaged their chances of winning. Smith was at No. 13, where had to stand in a bunker to address his second shot out of the rough. Instead of laying up into the fairway, his knee-high swing only sent the ball 65 yards ahead.
Young’s double bogey was ranked No. 16. He landed his approach just short of the green. His attempt to hit the ball from the hole zipped by the hole, landing on the slope in front of the green. This set up the disastrous score.
Scheffler had five birdies, which was more than enough to overcome two bogeys. This Masters champ could be the third to beat Nick Faldo or Tiger Woods at Augusta National.
Englishmen Tommy Fleetwood (66) and Matt Fitzpatrick (69) joined Australia’s Adam Scott (70) at 9 under. Jordan Spieth shot a 68 to get to 8 under and a tie for 11th with Patrick Cantlay (71).
Shane Lowry of Ireland holed out for consecutive eagles at the par-4 ninth and 10th holes for an improbable four-shot leap up the leaderboard. After cooling down, the 2019 Open champion shot a 69 to be part of a group that is at 7 under. Kevin Kisner also stands at 7 under after he shot a 65 for the low round of the day.