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Masters champion Jon Rahm surged into contention for his third major title with a stunning third round in the 151st Open Championship at Royal Liverpool.
Rahm only made the cut with a shot to spare following rounds of 74 and 70, but took advantage of unexpectedly benign conditions on Saturday to card eight birdies in a flawless 63, just one shot outside the lowest score in major championship history.
The world number three is the first player to shoot lower than 65 in an Open at Hoylake and closed to within four shots of halfway leader Brian Harman just two minutes before the American got his round under way.
“That is the best round I have played on a links course ever,” said Rahm, who followed a birdie on the fifth with four in succession from the ninth before picking up further shots on the 15th, 16th and 18th in a back nine of 30.
“Starting on 11 everything became downwind and it got easier.
“It is my lowest round on a links course and it is in the Open Championship. It’s the lowest round shot on this course.
“It feels really good but there is a lot of work to do tomorrow.”
A stunning second round of 65 had given Harman a halfway total of 10 under par and made him the ninth player in the last 40 years to hold a 36-hole lead of five strokes or more in a major, with each of the previous eight going on to win.
Scottie Scheffler was the most recent to do so in last year’s Masters, while Louis Oosthuizen was the last to achieve the feat in the Open; the South African led by five at St Andrews in 2010 and won by seven.
However, nearest challenger Tommy Fleetwood was not about to give up the chase in front of his adoring fans, having recently produced rounds of 64 and 67 to force a play-off in the Canadian Open and winning the 2022 Nedbank Golf Challenge from four behind at halfway.
Fleetwood immediately received some encouragement when Harman bogeyed the first and the gap was down to three when Fleetwood holed from nine feet on the second.
Rory McIlroy had also closed the gap to the leader, birdies on the first, third and fifth taking the four-time major winner, who triumphed at Hoylake in 2014, to four under par.
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