Rory McIlroy has one hand on the Claret Jug after yet another near-perfect day in the Open Championship at Hoylake.
The Northern Irishman, who has won both of his previous Majors by eight shots, looks certain to earn another runaway victory this week after two late eagles gave him a third round 68 to follow his opening rounds of 66 and 66.
McIlroy sits 16 under par and leads The Open by six shots from Rickie Fowler, with Sergio Garcia and Dustin Johnson one shot further back on -9.
Fowler actually shared the lead with McIlroy at -12 early on the back nine after a run of three consecutive birdies from the 10th.
But he bogeyed the 14th, 16th and 17th holes with some loose shotmaking before pulling one back with a brilliant bunker shot to set up a birdie on the last.
Garcia could also have been closer to the lead, but a string of near-misses on the green – his familiar weak point – saw him get no closer than Fowler at any point.
Yet again, however, the day belonged to McIlroy – not for his scoring this time, but for his astonishing resilience after seeing his lead challenged.
Fowler caught up with McIlroy after the leader had bogeyed the 12th – and a wayward tee shot on the par-3 13th made it seem as if an old-fashioned McIlroy implosion could be on the cards.
Yet the 25-year-old produced a magnificent shot to save par, chipping around the bank from thick rough and up to four feet.
He then hit a superb shot on the 14th to eight feet for his third birdie of the round – but the coups de grace were still to follow in the form of two towering iron shots to the greens at the par-5 16th and 18th holes.
Both were the best of the day by anyone to those two holes – and McIlroy did his massive blows justice with two perfect eagle putts, the first from 16ft and the second from 10ft.
That they were sandwiched by a bogey from the back rough on 17 did not matter. McIlroy’s eagles made him soar above the field, and it now seems inconceivable that he will not join Jack Nicklaus and Tiger Woods as the only men ever to win three Major titles by the age of 25.
Now Mcllroy has taken control of the Open Championship, William Hill make him an almost unbeatable 1/14 to lift the Claret Jug.
“Rory Mcllroy has been well backed all week and our bad run in the majors looks set to continue,” said William Hill spokesman Rupert Adams.
The Open Championship 2014 odds as at Saturday afternoon