Two eagles send Rory McIlroy soaring to six-shot lead in British Open
For first time in its 154-year history, field went out from the first and 10th tees, while Northern Irishman crushed rivals in his wake in third round demolition
A sensational double eagle finish from Rory McIlroy gave him a six-stroke cushion going into the final round of the British Open as he crushed a chasing pack of challengers who tried and failed to hunt him down during a rain-hit third round.
The 25-year-old Irishman, looking for his third major and first on British soil, started the day with a four-stroke lead.
But by the time he reached the 12th hole that had vanished and he was caught in a dogfight with American shot-maker Rickie Fowler, hungry to win his first major.
That was when McIlroy, who had been struggling off the tee, produced his best golf of the week at Royal Liverpool.
A birdie at 14 eased him back ahead, and with Fowler going off the boil, McIlroy struck what could prove to be two tournament-winning blows with magnificent eagles at the 16th and 18th. That put him at 16-under for the tournament, six strokes clear of Fowler who had eight birdies en route to a 68.
It was the biggest lead at the third-round stage of the Open since Tiger Woods at St Andrews in 2000. Woods eventually won by eight strokes on that occasion.
A further stroke back came Spaniard Sergio Garcia, who had a 69, and Dustin Johnson of the United States with a 71. Frenchman Victor Dubuisson was next best on eight under after a 68.
It was a remarkable day for the British Open because for the first time in its 154-year long history the field went out from the first and 10th tees instead of just everyone going off the first.
That was after a decision taken by tournament organisers to bring forward the start times and share them between 1 and 10 in an effort to complete the round in the face of bad weather forecast for later on.
"I think everyone was getting ready for a hurricane," said Keegan Bradley, who shot a three-under 69.
As it was, the 72-strong field was greeted with torrential rain as they arrived at the historic links south of Liverpool.
World No 1 Adam Scott had a fine 69, but at six under is too far back to pose a serious threat.
Woods had another mixed day as he carded a 73 to stand at three over, 17 strokes off the lead.
That meant that any hopes of winning a 15th major title six years after his last one were gone.
But just making it through to the weekend was an achievement in itself for the American, who is trying to work his way back to top form after back surgery.