Welcome back to Portrush. We hope you brought your waterproofs. The final round of the Open Championship is already underway, the field teeing off earlier than scheduled when the R&A read the ominous forecast for Sunday at the Dunluce Links. The worst of the weather isn't expected to arrive until later in the day—which means the final pairings will be not only be facing the usual pressure of a major championship Sunday but also trying to do it while staying dry and warm. Best of luck to the boys.
As for you, hopefully you are also some place dry and warm and ready to enjoy the final round of the final men's major of 2019. (Can that really be?!?) Lets get going.
1:14 p.m.: The final putt:
And the walk up 18:
One of the cooler major wins in recent memory, for sure. This is Lowry's second worldwide victory this season, the first coming at the Abu Dhabi Golf Championship in January. But this is his first PGA Tour victory since the 2015 WGC-Bridgestone, which is now known as the WGC-Fed Ex St. Jude Invitational and will take place next week in Memphis. Something tells us Lowry might skip that one.
1:10 p.m.: Fleetwood makes his par and sets up the scene for Lowry, whose ball was actually just off the green. His birdie putt almost drops, and he taps in the par for a one-over 72 and his first career major championship victory. Epic moment in front of the home crowd.
1:07 p.m.: Lowry finds the green and takes an epic walk up the 18th fairway. What a cool moment. Two putts (hopefully) left to go.
1:01 p.m.: Fairway-splitter for Lowry at the 18th. One more good shot and it'll be time for the best walk in all of golf. This one should be extra special with the home crowd all in favor of the Irishman.
12:55 p.m.: Lowry safely hits the fairway, then the green, and two-putts for par. He'd love one more of those at the 18th.
12:45 p.m.: Lowry's birdie putt rolled a few feet past but that was no problem for him as he holes another par putt. Fleetwood pars as well, and he trails by six with two to play. The fans, and Lowry, can sense it now.
12:37 p.m.: Tommy Fleetwood's only hope was some calamity at Calamity Corner. Lowry crushed those hopes with a laser beam right at the flag stick that ended up just short of the green. Fleetwood pulled his 2 iron left of the green, but is safe. Absolute scenes on the grounds right now.
12:33 p.m.: Fleetwood comes up short with his putt and Lowry buries his right in the heart afterward. Feels like that's the ball game. Lowry must feel like it is too judging by the fist pump he unleashed after holing that putt. Three more pars, hell, three bogeys and the claret jug is his.
12:30 p.m.: Lowry may have just applied the dagger. The Irishman flips a wedge to about 10 feet at the 15th. Fleetwood follows by coming up woefully short, but will still have a decent look at birdie that has to go.
12:24 p.m.: Fleetwood and Lowry finally hit a fairway at No. 15. Tommy's going to need a birdie here to have any chance.
12:20 p.m.: The mistake off the tee leads to another bogey for Lowry, yet he's going to gain a stroke on Fleetwood, who found a fairway bunker off the tee than more trouble after that. The Englishman got too aggressive from there, hitting his second right of the green and into high grass. He eventually got a 15-foot look at bogey, but it slid past the right edge. Double drops him to nine under, giving Lowry a five-shot lead again.
12:09 p.m.: Another missed fairway for Lowry at the 14th. Don't want to say the pressure is getting to him, since it's quite gusty, but he's still got to be feeling some nerves.
12:03 p.m.: Lowry and Fleetwood save their pars. Five to play, four-shot lead for Lowry. Here we go.
12:01 p.m.: With a 25 mph wind at his back, Fleetwood's ball goes way over the green but he hits a nice chip to about five feet. Lowry, who found a green side bunker off the tee, outclasses Tommy with a blast to tap-in range.
11:51 a.m.: Lowry finds the green in three but comes up well short, leaving himself with a long, uphill birdie putt. He just misses, taking his par and running to the 13th. Fleetwood found the green in two and had a great look at eagle but left it short. His birdie puts him at 11 under, and suddenly it's a four-shot deficit.
11:38 a.m.: Some leakage for Lowry at the 12th. His drive goes hard right and finds the high grass. He'll likely hack one out and still get on the green in three, so no real big trouble ... yet. Fleetwood is in the fairway and pretty much has to make birdie to make this thing real tight.
11:31 a.m.: Lowry hits one of his worst putts of the week at the 11th, leading to his third bogey in the last four holes, which cuts his lead to five. Man, this thing could be really interesting if Fleetwood could make a few birdies. Par-5 12th coming up. Big opportunity.
11:17 a.m.: Lowry makes par. Eight more of those and he'll be raising the jug. He's not coming back to the pack, but at even on the day he's given guys a chance to make a push, but no one is. Fleetwood failed to save par and is now once again in a six-shot hole.
11:09 a.m.: The rain has passed, but it's still quite breezy. That doesn't stop Fleetwood from removing a layer of clothing and unveiling that aggressive Nike shirt he already wore once this week. It didn't help his swing, as he overhooked another one at the 10th into some high grass. He did put his second up near the green and will have a good chance to get up and down. Lowry went over the green, but has a straightforward birdie chip.
Meanwhile, the dream might be dead for both Lee Westwood and Rickie Fowler. Fowler made double at the 10th to drop to seven under, and Westwood bogeyed the 11th.
10:59 a.m.: Bit of trouble off the tee for Lowry at the ninth leads to another bogey. Tommy Fleetwood saves par and is now within five. Hey now ..
10:48 a.m.: Shane Lowry makes his first bogey since the opening hole at No. 8, dropping him back to 17 under. Still enough for a six-shot lead thanks to Fleetwood also making bogey. Meanwhile, Lee Westwood is still hanging around at 10 under after a birdie at the 10th.
10:45 a.m.: We just had a montage of players hoping into ponchos, umbrellas going sideways...then a shot to Patrick Reed, who looks like he's playing in 80 degree sunny weather. He is definitely the high school offensive line coach who wears shorts during a snow game.
10:35 a.m.: It is straight Noah's Arking, folks. Fleetwood's third at the par-4 eighth is on the green but well short, a tricky two-putt awaits.
10:33 a.m.: Around the rest of the board, Rickie Fowler makes the turn at one under, nine for the tournament to be in T-3 with Westwood. Tony Finau is at T-5 with Danny Willett, Koepka behind them at seven under in seventh place.
10:21 a.m.: If you're wondering what happened to J.B. Holmes, the Kentuckian is three over through seven holes and it's getting worse. His approach from the heavy stuff at the eighth travels all of five yards, forcing a mere chip-out to the fairway for his third. Playing in the penultimate group, he's about to fall out of the top 10.
10:19 a.m.: A beautiful chip from Lowry to two feet, should be at 18 under momentarily. Meanwhile, Fleetwood's fourth, from a greenside bunker, rolls seven feet by the pin. He saves par, but at this point, Fleetwood is fighting to stay ahold of second place.
10:12 a.m.: This is becoming clinical. After a bomb on the par-5 seventh, Lowry is able to keep his approach low, running it up just short of the green. With Fleetwood forced to lay up out of the heavy stuff, this might officially wrap things up.
10:01 a.m.: It's starting to come down in buckets at the moment. But even Mother Nature is merely a bystander to Lowry at the moment. Pars the tricky par-3 sixth as Fleetwood does the same.
9:50 a.m.: If you're wondering how one of the best ball-strikers in the world doesn't have a major, you're watching why. Fleetwood can't make anything, missing his eagle at the fifth. Still makes birdies, but he desperately needed that to put the heat on Lowry.
Especially with Lowry cleaning up his birdie in the howlin' wind. Lowry is now 17 under to Fleetwood's 12, with Lee Westwood at 10 under.
9:45 a.m.: Koepka stops the bleeding with an eagle at the fourth, but four straight bogeys have already taken the toll on his tournament aspirations. Fleetwood follows Brooks by driving the green, and faces 10 feet or so for an eagle of his own. Lowry, who opted for the lay up, puts his chip to seven feet or so.
9:39 a.m.: Only the weather can stop Shane Lowry from the claret jug. Fleetwood's birdie attempt comes up short at the fourth while Lowry converts, bestowing a five-shot lead with 14 holes to go.
9:32 a.m.: That's four straight bogeys for Brooks. Just in case you were wondering how he was adopting to J.B. Holmes' slow play this morning.
9:26 a.m.: A bogey for Fleetwood at the third, failing to get up-and-down and the putter letting him down again. Lowry makes a sensible lag for a two-putt par and regains a four-shot lead.
9:20 a.m.: Hold the phone: Rickie Fowler is en fuego! After doubling the first, Fowler has responded with three straight birdies. Still six back, but given the nerves of Lowry coming out of the gate, this could get interesting.
9:16 a.m.: Lowry's birdie try misses, Fleetwood again can't cash in. Tommy Lad could be one back, instead he's three after two.
9:12 a.m.: After chipping out of the high stuff, Fleetwood sticks his third from 200 yards out to 10 feet at the second for an excellent recovery at the par 5. From 75 yards or so, Lowry can't get it as close, but does have a makable 15-footer or so awaiting.
9:04 a.m.: Brooks makes his second straight bogey at one of the easiest holes of the week at the second. Again, the putter lets him down. Legitimately could be leading this rodeo; instead he'll be fighting for a top-five finish.
9:00 a.m.: Fleetwood doesn't come close with his short birdie, and Lowry, as bad as he played the first, walks away with bogey. Lead is down to three.
8:56 a.m.: Oh my, Lee Westwood! After bogeying the first, Westwood has birdied the next two, including a chip in from 30 yards out at the third. Granted, it would have been 60 feet by had it not hit the been, but still.
8:54 a.m.: Koepka can't get up and down at the first to drop to eight under, currently eight back. Holmes cleans up a two-putt for his double. Lowry is faltering quickly at the first, his ball finding a greenside bunker at the first. Been a bit of a trainwreck in the past 30 minutes. It is glorious.
8:50 a.m.: Final group is on the first. Tommy Fleetwood goes first and finds the fairway, while Shane Lowry duck hooks one something fierce, but luckily it catches the rough quick and doesn't go O.B.
8:41 a.m.: Oof. J.B. Holmes hits one O.B. on the first and doesn't seen to know it, walking off the tee before someone yells for him to re-tee. Not ideal.
8:28 a.m.: Fowler's hat isn't his concern right now, after hitting his opening tee shot right. The ball took a horrid bounce off a photographer walking down the right side of the hole, and kicked O.B.
8:26 a.m.: Rickie Fowler is teeing off in the second-to-last twosome right now, wearing his usual Orange Sunday hat. This is a bit of a point of contention as the color orange carries with it a certain connotation in Northern Ireland, as Joel Beall details in this story.
8:20 a.m.: We've written all week how easy the par-5 second hole has played, and it's continuing to do that on Sunday: 20 birdies and two eagles, offset by just four bogeys with 61 golfers having played it. But another hole that seems to be one to score on so far is the par-4 fifth. It has yielded 23 birdies and an eagle so far with 55 players through.
8:15 a.m.: Also at seven under is Jordan Spieth after he starts the day with a par on the first hole. Spieth's week has been better than many expected, but he's still very prone to loose shots. And given the inconsistency still with his ball-striking, your guess is as good as our's what he might shoot today.
8:13 a.m.: Justin Thomas just made another birdie on the par-4 fifth hole to get to seven under for the tournament.
8:10 a.m.: How might bad weather impact Lowry? His first ever win on the European Tour came in 2009 as an amateur claiming the Irish Open title ... in a pouring mess. Lowry claims that he's no longer any good in bad weather, but our guess is that he might be being a bit modest when he says that.
__8:06 a.m.:__Your Open Championship leader is Shane Lowry, who tees off in about a half hour and is warming up on the range. Lowry's a 32-year-old from outside of Dublin, and the Irish crowds took a major liking to him on Saturday when he shot a brilliant 63 to take control of the tournament. This will be the second time he's taken a four-stroke lead into the final round of a major, the other coming in the 2016 U.S. Open at Oakmont. That one didn't end the way he hoped (he shot a closing 76 to finish three back of winner Dustin Johnson), but he believes he has learned from the experience and it will help him this afternoon.
8:04 a.m.: If you want to keep an eye on an early group, it's worth trying to see what Patrick Reed and Justin Thomas are doing in the twosome that teed off about an hour ago. These are two major winners who look like they're going to go for broke on Sunday in hopes that they can post a number early and let the Mother Nature help them get back into the hunt by messing with the leaders. Reed is one under on the day/five under for the tournament through four holes, Thomas is two under/six under.
7:59 a.m.: Suffice it to say, those who started early have gotten to play in some pretty reasonable conditions. Defending champion Francesco Molinari just wrapped up his final round after teeing off at 4:17 a.m. EDT and posted a closing 66, the low round in the clubhouse thus far.
BTW: Notice that the group played in a little more than 3 1/2 hours? A lot of players are playing VERY fast today, wanting to get back into the clubhouse before the worst weather arrives.
7:52 a.m.: Biggest concession the R&A has made about the weather, beyond moving up the tee times to try to avoid the worst of the weather, is that officials have slowed down the green speeds for Sunday at Royal Portrush in anticipation of high winds. The speeds are now just below 10 on the stimpmeter compared to around 10.5 earlier in the week. Those who were at the 2015 Open at St. Andrews, where high winds caused long delays and play and forced a Monday finish, are appreciative of this move.
7:48 a.m.: Here is the latest from the "Met Office", the official weather arm used at the Open, which is painting a better picture for the afternoon than it was last evening.
12 p.m.-6 p.m.—Rain clearning around 1 p.m. then a drier spell. Outbreaks of heavy rain likely (80 percent) after 4 p.m.
As for the wind: 15-20 mph from the sound with gusts of 30-35 mph and a 20 percent risk of 40 mph gusts after 4 p.m.
OK ... we can handle that right?
The issue is after 6 p.m. when the forecast is for "Outbreaks of heavy rain." What's heavy? Upwards of a half inch of rain between 6 p.m. and midnight.
7:45 a.m.: Also setting the scene with this image:
If you look really close at the top, you can see the alien spacecraft starting to creep out of the clouds (kidding!). Seriously thought, this image looks ominous and while I suspect a little CGI has been done, this is very likely what we're going to be looking at this afternoon.
7:37 a.m.: Setting the scene with this image:
After an amazing Saturday 63, Ireland's Shane Lowry comes into the final round with a four-stroke lead over Tommy Fleetwood. Lowry, propelled by the endless cheers from his countryman, seemingly couldn't miss a shot in the third round, except for the 18-foot birdie try on the 18th that would have given just the second 62 in Open and major championship history.