Rory McIlroy and Viktor Hovland separate from the field except for each other

Rory McIlroy and Viktor Hovland separate from the field except for each other

scheduled tribe. ANDREWES, Scotland – Rory McIlroy said on Tuesday that 150 . winth The British Open will be his holy grail. He is 18 holes away from making history with his fifth major win and ending a nearly eight-year drought in major championships.

But first, he has to break away from Viktor Hovland, who is attempting to become the first Norwegian to win a Major. Pairing together in the third round, they shot a matching round of 66 at the Old Course and shared a 54-hole lead at 16-under 200.

“Yeah, it was great,” Hovland said of the back-and-forth fight between him and McIlroy. “Maybe he’s not going to forget very quickly. No, I played very well, but it was also good to trade a few holes with Rory.”

McIlroy scored five birdies, a lone bogey and a hole-out eagle out of 500 at No. 10.

“It took skill to get it somewhere close, but it was luck that it went into the hole,” McIlroy said. “You need a little luck every now and then, especially in these big tournaments. And that was a nice bonus.”

McIlroy, 33, broke the birdie seal with a pair of circles on the cards at No. 5 and 6 and tackled on the second for a brilliant outward nine on the ninth. Then he crushed a 334-yard tee shot on 10 that caught a greenside pot bunker. His holed-out eagle was the shot of the day, and even Howland took a moment to admit it.

“It’s just a dirty bunker shot. So you just have to go, hey, that was a sick shot,” Hovland said. “When things like that happen, all you have to do is fist each other and say a good shot.”

Rory McIlroy of Northern Ireland plays his ball from close to the wall on the 17th hole during his third round on the third day of the 150th British Open Golf Championship at The Old Course in St Andrews, Scotland, on July 16, 2022. (Photo by Paul Ellis / AFP via Getty Images)

McIlroy wasn’t as lucky when on 17 his drive stalled to the left and his second shot heated up and swung through the green, through the sand, rolled onto the road and bounced back off the wall. With his ball in the divot, he hit a low punch for his third, which found the putting surface, but resulted in his lone bogey of the day and dropped him back into a tie for the lead with Hovland. McIlroy wasted no time returning to 16-under for the tournament, making a birdie last to shoot his second 66 of the championship.

While McIlroy adds to his major glory, Hovland is in contention at one of the first major events and noted that The Open is the first major he has grown up watching and that being in St Andrews would be extra special.

“I don’t think there is any other place that would top it,” he said. “To win a Major that’s closest to home, that would be really cool.”

Round after round, Hovland was asked if he had a moment during that round where he thought to himself, This is where his whole life was meant to be.

“I was wondering what am I doing here?” Howland said with a laugh. “Yeah, I mean, it’s pretty crazy where I grew up and I’m far from playing the PGA Tour, the European Tour, the major championships for that matter. Just being here is very special, but to have a chance to win one – Yes, I have to pinch myself, but that doesn’t mean I’m going to back down tomorrow.”

If 24-year-old Hovland claims the Claret Jag, it would be the first time that the four Majors were all won by players under 30.

Hovland climbed the leaderboard by making four straight birdies on the front nine, starting with a 38-footer on the third hole and then with a 42-footer on the fourth. He made a short birdie putt after McIlroy’s hole-out eagle at 10 and a two-putt birdie at 18 in the final pairing to post a bogey-free 66 and set up a rematch with McIlroy on Sunday.

Cameron Smith reacts after missing a put on the 7th green during the third round of the 150th Open Championship golf tournament. Mandatory Credit: Rob Schumacher – USA TODAY SPORTS

Their closest chasers, who are four strokes behind, are third-round leader Cameron Smith (73), whose putter went cold and made a goal-wasting double bogey on 13 after a poor drive, and Cameron Young (73). 71), who worked hard but made his back-nine double bogey at age 16.

“The golfing gods weren’t with me today,” Smith said.

But could they be with McIlroy this week? Golf Channel’s Paul McGinley suggested that the stars might eventually be aligned for McIlroy, who said he had finished enough golf tournaments in his time that he would know what to do tomorrow, from the Holy Grail of Golf. to take a dip.

“I’m looking at a lot of things at once,” McGinley said. “I think the golfing gods have something good in store for Rory McIlroy.”

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