Saturday, July 22, 2017

McIlroy, Ramsay, Poulter and Fisher: One of

them will be top Brit in the 2017 Open

SOUTHPORT, Lancashire – Royal Birkdale was ripe for scoring today at the Open. Branden Grace shot the first 62 in major-championship history, an 8-under round that included eight birdies. And 14 other players carded rounds of 66 or better.
Rory McIlroy was poised early to be part of that 66-and-under group. He pounded a driver down the first tee and made an opening birdie. Then he chipped in for birdie at the par-3 fourth. After another birdie at the drivable par-4 fifth hole, McIlroy was 4 under and on the first page of the leaderboard.
“If you keep it in play, it’s almost hard to make a bogey out there, you know?” McIlroy said.
But how quickly fortunes can change, even on days like today. McIlroy bogeyed Nos. 7 and 8, the former a result of a poor tee shot that missed way left on the 177-yard par 3, which McIlroy said was playing at 153 yards.
He birdied the par-4 ninth to turn in 2-under 32, but a double bogey at the 10th hole took all the wind out of his sails. On the hole, McIlroy hit the wrong club off the tee, a 3-iron, when he said he should’ve either laid up with a 4- or 5-iron, or gone with 1-iron. The penalty: he found a fairway bunker.
With just one more birdie, at the par-5 15th, McIlroy came back in 1-over 37 to post a third-round, 1-under 69. At 2 under, he’s nine shots back of leader Jordan Spieth.
“I’ve always been good when I get off to fast starts being able to keep it going, and I didn’t today,” McIlroy said. “And I needed to, that’s the disappointing thing.”
McIlroy, a four-time major winner yet major-less since the 2014 PGA, has missed three of his last four cuts, including the U.S. Open. But McIlroy said he’s close to putting everything together.
“Just fighting that left shot a little bit, so left pins are a bit of a struggle right now,” McIlroy said. “And I’m trying to trust what I’m doing and trust my swing. … It’s not quite where I need it to be to win the biggest golf tournaments in the world. But it’s getting there.”
McIlroy’s chances of winning this year’s Open are arguably gone. All McIlroy can do Sunday is try to get out to a fast start again, and hopefully finish it off better than he did in Round 3.
“It’s hard to think big picture now, I’m just off the golf course and I’m a little disappointed,” McIlroy said. “This week has been a step in the right direction, there’s no doubt about it. And I need to pick myself up, play a good round tomorrow and hope for some bad weather. And hope for some guys to struggle. And we’ll see what happens.

“Yeah, I definitely feel like today was an opportunity lost to get right in the mix going into tomorrow.”
With Americans in first, second and third place after three rounds, the battle to be the top Brit is an interesting side issue between, almost certainly, McIlroy, Aberdeen's Richie Ramsay, the fading Ian Poulter and another Englishman Ross Fisher who shot a 66 today. The four are tied 11th on two-under 208.
Ramsay (pictured above), who birdied the 17th and 18th,  is hanging on in there for a top 10 finish with scores of 68, 70 and 70. Poulter will be bitterly disappointed that his bid to win the Open is going in the wrong direction - 67-70-71.

Ramsay, a former US amateur champion, is making his seventh career Open appearance, and his fifth in the last six years. He qualified to play at Royal Birkdale with a high finish in the Irish Open early this month.



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