Once the filthy weather had done its worst and scattered The Open field asunder, Northern Ireland’s Darren Clarke emerged in late on Saturday sunshine atop the leaderboard, but with a pack of Americans lurking dangerously.
Joint overnight leader Clarke was spared the sheeting rain and 25-kph gusts that “welcomed” the earlier starters at the exposed links course on England’s southeast tip, posting a one-under-par round of 69 and a one-stroke lead over big-hitting American Dustin Johnson.
Johnson managed a two-under 68, as did young compatriot Rickie Fowler, who surged up the leaderboard into a tie for third spot, three shots back, with Denmark’s Thomas Bjorn, who could yet exorcise the demons of Sandwich 2003 when victory slipped through his fingers in an excruciating late collapse.
Fowler’s round, together with veteran Tom Watson’s, was the most impressive, however, as the 22-year-old Californian, who looks more Malibu surfer-dude than a grizzled links golfer, showed tremendous maturity and nous in diabolical conditions.
With four holes on the bunker-riddled Royal St George’s layout offering not a single birdie all day, only Clarke, Johnson and Fowler signed for below-par rounds and just six players are in red numbers ahead of the climax.
However, arguably the best performance of the day was from 61-year-old five-time champion Watson, who, a day after thrilling crowds with a hole-in-one, schemed his way round in 72 shots when pretty much everyone else out on the rain-lashed course was going backward at a rapid rate of knots.
Watson, who refuses to fade away into the shadows, will start nine shots back in the final round, as will US Open champion Rory McIlroy, who played with Fowler for the third day in succession, but was eclipsed by the young American.
McIlroy was poised for a weekend tilt at the title after rounds of 71 and 69, but he never mastered the conditions and when he double-bogeyed the demanding par-five 14th, his challenge appeared to have evaporated.
“If the conditions are similar to what they were this morning, then it’s going to be very tough to make ground up on the leaders,” he said.
Fowler, dressed in white waterproofs, birdied the fifth on the outward nine and rattled off three more in four holes on the way back, then afterward said he had been inspired by watching Watson battle the elements.
“Watched a little bit of the coverage prior to us going out, and just saw kind of how he looked like he was having fun, smiling, and embracing the conditions,” Fowler said. “The best way to deal with tough and hard conditions is just go out and try and make a good time of it.
“I’ve just got to make sure I keep having fun. I think that’ll keep me for the most part kind of mellow and not getting too far ahead of myself,” added Fowler, who has yet to win on Tour, but impressed many on his Ryder Cup debut last year.
The 42-year-old, cigar-loving Clarke, who finished tied third in 2001, but has not made the top-10 in a major since, was also enjoying himself although he admitted he had been lucky with the weather.
“We got very lucky,” Clarke, the only man to birdie the first — one of three birdies in his round which also included two bogeys — told reporters.
As well as Fowler and Johnson, several other Americans are handily placed, although former US Open winner Lucas Glover is four shots back after a disappointing 73 playing with Clarke.
Phil Mickelson is five shots behind after a damage-limitation 71 in the worst of the weather, while Anthony Kim and Davis Love III are also in a group of six players on level par.
One shot further back are four more Americans in the shape of Zach Johnson, Ryan Palmer, Tom Lehmann and Chad Campbell.
Forty-two players began the day within five shots of the lead shared by Clarke and Glover, but one by one the wind shredded their hopes, as it did many of the multi-colored umbrellas that illuminated a dismal sea of green and grey.
Player after bedraggled player trudged to the scorers’ hut with tales of woe, none more so than Frenchman Gregory Havret, last year’s US Open runner-up, who was hanging in bravely until a calamitous 10 at the brutal par-five 14th.
WEEKEND MATCHES: While Tatung FC made good on their chances early on, Taiwan Steel rallied to win the game 2-3 and move to the top with Taichung Futuro Sunday’s action saw Taichung Futuro, Taipower FC and Taiwan Steel tied for first place on 30 points in the Taiwan Football Premier League, while Hang Yuan FC picked up a point to take the No. 4 spot on 25 points after holding Taipower to a scoreless draw. In Taoyuan, Tatung FC hosted Taiwan Steel. It was an exciting matchup, as the visitors rallied from 2-0 down to take the game with three goals. Tatung made good on their chances early on. Honduran midfielder Elias Argueta opened the account 15 minutes into the game with a low shot from the right. Three minutes
Ronnie O’Sullivan delivered a scathing attack on the next generation of snooker players after he made the quarter-finals of the World Snooker Championship on Sunday, ending Chinese star Ding Junhui’s world championship dream. The mercurial 44-year-old Englishman won an enthralling high-quality second-round encounter 13-10 to set up a quarter-final clash with three-time champion Mark Williams. When asked by the BBC whether he thought he would remain at the top of the game for this long, the Briton, who turned professional in 1992, said the poor quality of younger players had secured his position and that something drastic would have to happen
Max Verstappen informed his Red Bull team that he would not be driving “like a grandma” in Formula One’s 70th Anniversary Grand Prix on Sunday — and he was as good as his word. The Dutch 22-year-old seized his opportunity at Silverstone, ending dominant Mercedes’ run of four successive wins this season and moving up to second place overall, 30 points behind leader Lewis Hamilton. Verstappen’s confidence shone through early on, after slotting into third place behind the two Mercedes, when he was told by race engineer Gianpiero Lambiase to take care of his tires. “Mate, this is the only chance of being
FULL GAME: Henry Sosa pitched nine innings for the Guardians, allowing only six hits all night, while the Monkeys’ offense were also shut out of their game Outfielder Lin An-ko carried a big bat this week — before his Uni-President Lions ran into the Fubon Guardians last night — blasting four home runs, including a grand slam as his side won four games in a row and moved into second on the CPBL table. However, the Lions could not sustain their super-charged offense for the whole week, as they were shut out 4-0 by the Guardians in New Taipei City. Fubon’s rookie catcher, Jhang Jin-de, took a page from Lin’s playbook. With two men on, Jhang smacked a three-run homer in the sixth inning. Henry Sosa of the Dominican Republic