ASU alum Rahm sets record at Open, trails by 6 after third round

Jul 22, 2023, 8:22 AM | Updated: 12:33 pm

HOYLAKE, England (AP) — Jon Rahm did all he could to get himself back into the mix at the Open Championship. All it required was the lowest round ever at Royal Liverpool in its 13 times hosting the Open.

He birdied seven of his last 10 holes for a 63, by two shots the lowest score at Hoylake in the Open. The course was the only one on the modern rotation that had not yielded lower than a 65 until Saturday.

Rahm is an Arizona State alumnus, having won 11 collegiate golf tournaments. That is good for second in school history behind Phil Mickelson.

He holed a 12-foot birdie putt on the par-5 closing hole right about the time Brian Harman teed off with a five-shot lead. Harman begins at 10-under par. Rahm’s 63 put him at 6 under.

Rahm made his move with four straight birdies around the turn. His finish was sharp, too. He chipped to 8 feet for birdie on the 15th, holed a 35-foot birdie putt on the 16th and then finished with one final birdie.

Meanwhile, Brian Harman has two victories in 335 tournaments over 12 years on the PGA Tour. Now he’s one round away from one of the grandest titles of all.

Harman overcame an early wobble on a wet Saturday at the Open and then he steadied himself for a 2-under 69 that kept his lead at five shots on a Royal Liverpool links where the little lefty seems to do no wrong.

His final act was an 8-foot par putt, with Harman lightly clenching his fist, that made it that much more difficult for Cameron Young, Rahm or anyone else to catch him.

Young, the runner-up at St. Andrews a year ago, hit a superb shot from the front bunker on the par-5 18th for a tap-in birdie and a 66 that got him into the final group.

Harman made it feel like an even larger deficit the way he’s been playing — on the grass, not in the pot bunkers, and rarely out of position.

“I got off to a rough start, but I stayed the ship,” Harman said. “I hit a bunch of good ones coming down the stretch. … I was out there trying to hit every shot the best I could, and I did an OK job with that.”

Harman was paired with Tommy Fleetwood, the local star who grew up some 45 minutes up the Lancashire coast in Southport and had a throaty English gallery on his side. They were roaring when Harman bogeyed the opening hole and then went long of the fourth green for another bogey. His five-shot lead suddenly was down to two shots.

And then it wasn’t.

Harman hit a beautiful lag from 70 feet for a two-putt birdie on the par-5 fifth. He closed out the front nine with a tee shot to 4 feet for birdie at the ninth. And then he poured it on, hitting another beauty to 5 feet at No. 12 and rolling in a 20-foot birdie on the next hole.

Harman was at 12-under 201 and has history on his side. Jean Van de Velde is the last player to take a five-shot lead into the final round of a major and not win. That was in Carnoustie in 1999 and featured one of the most dumbfounding triple bogeys ever on the 72nd hole of a major.

“I feel like he’s not someone to back down,” Young said. “With the lead he has right now, it’s not necessarily going to be up to me tomorrow. It’s just really time for me to focus on myself and see where that gets me.”

The day was a big disappointment for so many others, starting with Rory McIlroy.

He opened with three birdies in five holes — he had birdie chances of 10 and 12 feet on the other two holes — and looked primed to post the kind of score Rahm did earlier. But he didn’t make birdie the rest of the way, and the finish was particularly painful. McIlroy missed birdie chances from 8 feet, 12 feet and 10 feet.

He chose not to speak to the media for the second time this week, heading straight to the putting green. McIlroy shot 69 and was nine shots behind, making it likely he will have to wait nine months for a chance to end his aggravating nine-year drought in the majors.

Rahm started 12 shots behind and now at least has a chance. He was dynamic as ever, playing bogey-free in the morning rain that gave way to damp, breezy conditions.

Fleetwood had to settle for a 71, leaving him in the group at 5-under 208 — seven shots out of the lead — with Jason Day (69), Viktor Hovland (66), Sepp Straka (70) and Antoine Rozner (67).

Fleetwood rolled in a 10-foot birdie putt on the second hole and then didn’t make another birdie, dropping a shot on the 10th. The wind died late in the day, and no one managed to make a move at Harman other than Young.

Hovland, who shared the 54-hole lead at St. Andrews last year with McIlroy, had three birdies on the back to at least give him hope.

Young missed two birdie putts from inside 7 feet. That didn’t bother him because he felt they were good putts and the greens can be deceptive. Nothing really bothered him except for being five shots behind, and there wasn’t much he could do about that.

Harman has been in full control as he goes after his first win since the Wells Fargo Championship in 2017. He has been steady inside and outside the ropes, not wanting to get too far ahead of himself.

“I’ve got 18 holes,” he said.

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