LEADERBOARD –16 McIlroy, Hovland; -12 Young, C. Smith; -11 Scheffler, S.W. Kim; -10 Johnson SELECTED OTHERS –9 Fitzpatrick; -8 Spieth; -3 MacIntyre; +2 Law
Rory McIlroy and Viktor Hovland are set for an epic Sunday showdown after a magical day at St Andrews.
Without a major for eight years, but eternally popular with the galleries and increasingly a great champion of the game off the course, McIlroy seized the initiative on Saturday at the 150th Open.
This was almost flawless from the four-time major winner who chased down first Cam Young, then Cam Smith, neither of whom were able to replicate the stellar golf they produced on Thursday and Friday. Only a bogey at the Road Hole slightly soiled the card.
He is joined on 16-under by Hovland, the prodigious Norwegian seeking to make his own major breakthrough. He too produced a vintage display on Saturday, sending a large contingent from the Scandinavian nation into raptures.
Smith, Young, Si Woo Kim and Scottie Scheffler among a host of stars hoping to make up ground on what should be a highly dramatic Open Sunday. The pieces are in place for one of the great final day duels.
“I missed some chances early on and had to stay patient,” McIlroy said.
“The wind was favourable to drive a couple of greens like nine and 12 and I took advantage of some of the holes around the turn.
“It was a great group to be part of and we get to do it all again tomorrow.”
The crowning moment of McIlroy’s round came at the tenth. Unfortunate to find sand with his drive, he promptly holed out to move into a share of top spot.
“To win these championships these things need to go your way,” he added.
Dramatic though it was, this was measured from McIlroy. He took the chances he was afforded by the Old Course, and played sensibly when it was required.
Others were hampered by not following the same approach. Overnight leader Smith perhaps affected by the knowledge his advantage had been snuffed out, inexplicably declined to take his medicine at 13. With his ball on the fairway but his stance in a bunker, he attempted a glory shot which backfired, resulting in a double.
All challengers except Hovland either fell back or trod water.
“I don’t think there’s any other place that would top it,” Hovland said when asked what it would mean to break his major duck at the Home of Golf.
“Growing up in Norway and always watched the Open Championship for way longer than I ever did, for example, the Masters. Yeah, to win a major that’s closest to home, that would be really cool.”