British Open 2019 live blog: Shane Lowry finishes with eight-under 63, leads by four at Royal Portrush
Good morning from warm (!) and sunny (!!) Royal Portrush. With only the occasional cloud rolling through and the breeze light at just 10-15 m.p.h., Saturday looks like the best day for scoring so far at the 148th Open Championship. The question then is whether the contenders who advanced to the weekend will take advantage of the splendid conditions and turn the third round in a day for low scores. The early twosomes are starting to finish up their rounds as we're ready for all the action from Northern Ireland. Come settle in for today's live blog:
(All times eastern)
2:53 p.m.: What an effort from Lowry, but it just slides past the left edge and he settles for par and a third-round 63. This is the second time Lowry has held a 54-hole lead at a major, the first coming at the 2016 U.S. Open at Oakmont, where he carded a final-round 76 to finish three back of Dustin Johnson. We'll see if he can handle all the pressure on Sunday, because it will be immense for the Irishman. His 16 under 54-hole total is the lowest in Open Championship history, and its given him a four-stroke edge on Tommy Fleetwood. Sunday could be a Mickelson-Stenson like duel. Make sure to get up early for it, because the R&A has moved up tee times. NBC will be live at 6 a.m. ET, and we'll have all the important updates in our Day 4 live blog.
2:46 p.m.: After a lengthy discussion with his caddie—understandable given how big the moment was—Lowry strikes a beauty at the 18th right of the pin. One more good look at birdie for 62 for the irishman. If it drops, the place might explode.
2:42 p.m.: Two pars at the 18th for Lee Westwood and Tommy Fleetwood, who each have to be pretty shocked as they see Lowry's score on the leader board, not to mention hearing the roars behind them. Fleetwood posted a five-under 66 and sits four back at 12 under, while Westwood, who held a share of the lead at the 10th hole, is eight back after finishing off a one-under 70.
2:39 p.m.: ANOTHER birdie for Lowry at the 17th. He's eight under on his round and 16 under for the tournament. Unless he holes out for eagle, he won't match Rory McIlroy's 61 at Portrush, but a birdie would give him just the second 62 in major championship history. What an incredible round.
2:26 p.m.: Wow. Shane Lowry holes another at the 16th, only the second birdie the hole has yielded all day, to reach 15 under. Is it time for the Vince Carter GIF? Not quite, but he is now three up on the next closest competitor, Tommy Fleetwood, who just missed a birdie at the short par-4 17th.
2:20 p.m.: What a finish from Brooks Koepka, who almost holed an eagle putt from off the front of the green at the 17th and cleaned up his birdie. At 18 he dropped a bomb to finish birdie-birdie, giving him a third-round 67. He and Justin Rose, who shot a three-under 68, are tied for the clubhouse lead at nine under.
Back at 15, Shane Lowry's special week continues as he rolls in another birdie putt to get to 14 under. Then, at 16, finds the green and rolls it up to inside of 10 feet. What a heater.
2:14 p.m.: Two great pars from Tommy Fleetwood and Lee Westwood at the 16th. Par is a great score there today, and it'll be even better tomorrow.
2:05 p.m.: J.B. Holmes was in the middle of the fairway at the 14th but badly pulled his approach and found a green side bunker. He did well to get it within 10 feet of the hole, but came up just short with his par putt to fall to nine under. Lowry, meanwhile, pulled off another world-class up and down to remain at 13 under.
At the 15th, Lee Westwood's dream round is running out of magic. He just lipped out a short par putt to drop to eight under. Tommy Fleetwood makes his par to stay one back of Lowry.
1:57 p.m.: Good recovery from Lowry as he hits it up left of the green. Going to be a tough up and down though.
1:54 p.m.: Calamity Corner claims its latest victim in Justin Rose, who lipped out a birdie chip from the high grass short of the green and then missed the comeback par putt. Quite the momentum killer for the Englishman after playing his last four holes in four under. He drops back to nine under.
Shane Lowry may finally come back to the pack after the drive he just hit at the 14th. The Irishman pulls it dead left and has a tricky lie.
1:52 p.m.: Big announcement from the Open Twitter account, as it's been announced that tee times have been moved up tomorrow due to J.B. Holmes' slow play the incoming weather:
1:50 p.m.: J.B. Holmes three-putts the 13th and drops back to 10 under. Lowry makes par to stay at 13 under.
1:48 p.m.: Oh my. Fleetwood's birdie putt at 14 was tracking and it made a hard right turn at the hole. Tough par to swallow. Same goes for Westwood, whose putt was also going right at it before snapping left at the hole.
1:43 p.m.: Shane Lowry grabs the solo lead with a two-putt birdie at the par-5 12th, then finds the green at the 13th. J.B. Holmes was also able to make his birdie at No. 12 to get to 11 under. Up ahead at 14, Tommy Fleetwood looks to keep pace with a beautiful approach into the green, setting up a great look at birdie. His fellow countryman Justin Rose just made another birdie at the 15th, which gets him to 10 under. Brooks Koepka, playing alongside Rose, makes his second bogey in his last three holes to fall back to seven under.
At the final hole, Jon Rahm makes a bogey to card a 68 and get to the house at seven under. Not going to be thrilled about that finish. Tony Finau appeared to be in danger of doing the same, bogeying the last, but instead he chipped in for birdie from off the green to match Rahm's 68 and also get in at seven under. Two wildly different finishes right there.
1:31 p.m.: Have we failed to mention Justin Rose? Talk about lurking. Like Cam Smith, he also went eagle-birdie at the 12th and 13th holes, which got him to nine under. He just parred the 14th to stay three back.
1:26 p.m.: At the par-5 12th, Lee Westwood walks off with par when he was just off the front of the green in two shots. That hurts. He's still at nine under, while playing partner Tommy Fleetwood takes advantage of the par 5 with a birdie to tie Shane Lowry for the lead at 12 under.
How about the last two holes from Cameron Smith? The young Aussie made eagle at 12 and birdie at 13 to get to eight under. It looked like he was going to fade away earlier, as he began his round by going one over through his first 11 holes. Suddenly, he's in contention.
1:24 p.m.: Don't look now, but Jon Rahm just made his third birdie in a row. He's four under on his round, eight under for the tournament.
1:11 p.m.: Earlier at the 10th, Lee Westwood finally flinched, missing his drive way right and finding a huge bush. He had to take an unplayable and was able to save a bogey, then nearly bounced back with a birdie at 11th but just missed. He's at nine under now, three back. Tommy Fleetwood just missed birdie as well, and he remains one back at 11 under.
Rickie Fowler is the new clubhouse leader, carding a five-under 66 to get to eight under through three rounds.
1:07 p.m.: Another eruption at the 10th hole, where Lowry pulled off one of the recovery shots of the week from some high grass that caught the slope left of the green and rolled to a few feet. He cashes that for birdie and is at 12 under. The Northern Irish corwd is fully behind him now.
12:45 p.m.: If you just heard an eruption from across the Atlantic Ocean, that's because Shane Lowry curled in a 10-footer for birdie on No. 9. The Irishman takes the solo lead at 11 under as he makes the turn.
12:36 p.m.: Rickie Fowler birdies the 17th hole to break out of that logjam in fifth place. Fowler is now only two shots behind the foursome at the top.
12:29 p.m.: Let's a take a quick run through the leader board:
1t. Lee Westwood (!) (-10)
1t. Shane Lowry (-10)
1t. J.B. Holmes (-10)
1t. Tommy Fleetwood (-10)
5t. Rickie Fowler, Brooks Koepka, Danny Willett, Dylan Frittelli, and Justin Harding (-7)
For full scores, click here.
12:24 p.m.: Both members of the final group, J.B. Holmes and Shane Lowry, fail to birdie the par-5 seventh. Lowry chunked his eagle chip and missed from eight feet, while Holmes missed from about four feet after a brilliant bunker shot. They remain at 10 under. And Rickie Fowler remains three back after missing his birdie attempt on 16. Although, you can never be disappointed with par at CALAMITY CORNER.
12:17 p.m.: Rickie Fowler hits a a great—and bold—shot on the par-3 16th to avoid some CALAMITY. He'll have a 15-footer for the first birdie of the day there as he continues to climb the leader board.
12:13 p.m.: Danny Willett misses a glorious birdie chance at the last, but still, what a day. The 65 by the 2016 Masters champ matches the low round of the tournament.
12:04 p.m.: Xander's first blemish of the day comes at the 14th hole, dropping him to six under.
11:57 a.m.: What an up and down from J.B. Holmes at the fifth. He's still tied for the lead.
11:51 a.m.: Westwood and Fleetwood both got some bad hops at the par-3 sixth, Fleetwood's shot bounding hard left and all the way back to the front of the green and Westwood's rolling right off the green. Westwood played an incredible chip, leaving him with a short par putt he was able to clean up. Fleetwood nearly holed his long birdie putt, walking away with a par as well.
Back at the fifth, J.B. Holmes hits one of his worst drives of the week miles to the right and behind a scorecard. He got relief, but it still wasn't a great lie, and he comes up short with his second. He'll need to get up and down from some more high grass to stay in a tie at the top. Lowry, meanwhile, got aggressive, his ball rolling past the hole and to the back of the green where he'll have a good look at birdie.
A few updates on the other contenders: Xander is still plugging along, sitting at four under on his round through 13 holes and seven under overall. Brook Koepka just reached seven under as well with a birdie at the par-5 seventh. Jordan Spieth has stalled, but he's still one under on the day through seven holes and six under for the tournament. And then there's Danny Willet, who just made his sixth birdie of the day at the 17th and is also at seven under. If he pars 18, he'll have a bogey-free 65. What a round if he can finish it off.
Lowry makes his birdie, and he's now tied at the top. Lot. Of. Action.
11:42 a.m.: At the fifth, Lee Westwood doesn't flirt with the danger behind the green and comes up well short of the hole, eventually settling for par. His playing partner, Tommy Fleetwood, nearly holes out for eagle, tapping in a birdie to pull within one of the lead.
11:30 a.m.: The lead now belongs to J.B. Holmes, who birdies the par-3 third to get to double digits under par. Lowry makes birdie as well, which puts him at nine under, one back.
HOLD UP! Lee Westwood drains one at the fourth to tie Holmes at 10. This is insane.
11:20 a.m.: Westwood having sole possession of the lead didn't last long, as J.B. Holmes taps in for birdie at the par-5 second to reach nine under. Have a feeling there will be a lot of jockeying today. Holmes' partner, Shane Lowry, makes his second straight par to begin his round to keep it at eight under. He's tied with Fleetwood and Justin Harding, who has made back-to-back birdies at the third and fourth holes.
11:16 a.m.: Your new solo leader is Lee freaking Westwood, who rolls in a birdie at the third to get to nine under. Is this really happening?
11:07 a.m.: We now have a four-way tie for the lead as Lee Westwood gets up and down for birdie at the second. Not sure our hearts can handle all this action.
11:05 a.m.: After finding the front of the green, Shane Lowry gives his long birdie putt a great run at No. 1, but it's just short. Tap-in par to stay at eight under. J.B. Holmes, meanwhile, had to grind for his par, leaving his birdie putt four feet short and then just catching the edge with his par putt. They're both tied with Fleetwood.
10:58 a.m.: Australia's Cam Smith knocks one in tight at the second and finishes off the birdie to get to seven under. At the fourth, Spieth hits a great iron shot in and has a good look at birdie. It really is all happening now.
10:56 a.m.: Justin Rose and Brooks Koepka both birdie the par-5 second, putting Rose at seven under and Koepka at six under.
10:54 a.m.: Hell of a start for Tommy Fleetwood, as he rolls in a birdie putt at the first to tie for the lead. His playing partner and fellow countryman Lee Westwood makes his par and they're off and running. Back at the tee, J.B. Holmes and Shane Lowry safely play irons off the tee and it's officially ON.
10:50 a.m.: Spieth wasn't in love with his tee shot at the par-3 third, but it took a great hop off a huge mound and rolled on the green back toward the pin. He then holed his second birdie in a row to get to seven under. Look out!
10:48 a.m.: Jordan Spieth gives his eagle putt a great run at the par-5 second, but settles for birdie to join Schauffele at six under. Both guys are making a nice early move, but neither are making as big of a move as Danny Willett, who is five under on his round through 12 holes, and six under for the week. This resurrection of sorts for Willett began right around this time last summer, when he finished T-8 at the Italian Open and T-6 at the Irish Open. Then, just before the calendar turned to 2019, he earned his sixth European Tour win at the DP World Tour Championship in Dubai, his first victory since the 2016 Masters. Since then he's had just one top 10 worldwide, but now he's making noise in one of the biggest events of the year.
10:39 a.m.: Another birdie for Xander Schauffele at the eighth, getting him to six under for the tournament. Was there any doubt he was going to make a move? Outside of Brooks Koepka, Schauffele might have the most impressive major resume since 2017.
10:28 a.m.: Here comes Xander! The X-Man has taken advantage of both par 5s by making birdie and parring everything else. He's at five under, three off the leaders, who are 20 minutes from teeing off. Brooks Koepka and Justin Rose just finished up their first hole, each making par. Rose remains at six under while Koepka is at five under.
At the second green, Dylan Frittelli just misses eagle and taps in for bird to get to six under. Got to take advantage of these early birdie holes, and many of the leaders are.
10:20 a.m.: Up ahead at the second green, Tony Finau, who is rocking that, um, loud-looking Nike shirt, makes a short birdie putt to join the group at five under. Also at five under is Byeong Hun An, who just hit another one tight at the eighth and is about to get to six under. If that drops, he'll be four under through eight. Real nice start for the 27-year-old South Korean.
10:16 a.m.: Interesting start for Jordan Spieth. With an iron off the tee, he flared one out to the right and it looked like it barely even reach the front edge fairway, eventually coming to rest in the right rough. After hitting his second he said "it's over the green," but it actually landed on the front and rolled all the way to the back right edge. Two so-so shots and he's got a birdie putt at No. 1. Peak Spieth.
10:01 a.m.: Another little tidbit from the course for you all as the leaders start to head out: If you don't birdie the par-5 second hole, you're giving shots away. So far 59 players have completed the hole, and 38 have made birdies, two have made eagles. The rest have made par. Indeed, no score higher than a 5 has been shot on the hole.
9:55 a.m.: Should J.B. Holmes hang on and win, he would help complete a clean sweep of this year's four majors for the Americans, something that drew a lot of questions from the British press early this week. Presumably that isn't really that big a deal until you realize how long ago it has been since this has happened. Can you guess what year it last happened?
(Gives reader chance to search Internet)
You're right, it was 27 years ago, in 1982. Craig Stadler won the Masters, Tom Watson the U.S. Open and the British Open, and Ray Floyd the PGA.
9:43 a.m.: If you can pull yourself away from these updates for a moment, we have some shameless plugging bonus content to tell you about on the website.
Serious, this is a really fun piece about the volunteer superintendents, one assigned to each pairing, who rake the bunkers so that the caddies don't have to.
9:38 a.m.: At the risk of disrespecting of Shane Lowry and J.B. Holmes, it's safe to say that many folks watching today are anticipating some of the chasers to perhaps over take our leaders this afternoon. There are indeed some intriguing names in position to make a charge. First among them is teeing off right now: Jon Rahm, who sits at four under, four off the lead. Rahm was one of the favorites entering the week and if not for a double-bogey 7 on the second hole Friday, he would be event closer. Suffice it to say the Spaniard is worth keeping an eye on today.
9:31 a.m.: Sharing the lead with Shane Lowry entering the third round is American J.B. Holmes. The 37-year-old's record in the last seven starts is hardly what you'd expect for a guy leading the Open after 36 holes:
Wells Fargo: WD
PGA Championship: MC
RBC Canadian: MC
U.S. Open: MC
Rocket Mortgage: T-21
Holmes was asked after he finished his second-round 68 yesterday if he had ever had a slump like that before. His answer was revealing.
"Never. That was the first one. The first one of that extent. Obviously I've had slumps before, but that was—four weeks ago I thought my career was over. Or felt like it."
9:24 a.m.: Biggest early insight we might have on how the Dunluce Links is playing on Saturday is the fact that seven players among the first 18 to play the par-4 17th hole have made birdies. Over the first two days of play, making up ground on the 16th, 17th and 18th holes at Portrush has been tricky. But this might suggest a bit of a break for those chasing down the stretch.
9:18 a.m.: The world TV feed just showed Shane Lowry arriving with his family, including his young daughter. As they enter through a gate, a security guard asks to scan his badge. Doesn't the guard know who this guy is? Co-leader of the Open Championship! Is scanning his badge really necessary?
9:12 a.m.: We mentioned the weather conditions, and they really are ideal. The official weather forecast calls for "Sunny spells and likely remaining dry. A small chance (10 percent) of a late afternoon shower." This is wonderful news because Sunday's forecast is far more dicey. More about that later.
9:05 a.m.: Lets lay out the foundation here. If you're looking to see Rory McIlroy or Tiger Woods playing today, you're out of luck. They each missed the cut on Friday, as did Phil Mickelson, Gary Woodland, Jason Day and Adam Scott. Don't worry ... there's always the last major of the year, at the PGA. Oh wait ...
Locals did get to see one of their own a few moments ago as Graeme McDowell finished off a third-round 68, the lowest score posted thus far. The Portrush native is the lone Northern Irishman to man the cut.