HOYLAKE, United Kingdom (AFP) — American Brian Harman shrugged off the pressure applied by Jon Rahm’s course-record 63 to take a five-shot lead into the final round of the British Open.
Despite two bogeys early in his third round on Saturday, Harman, who has never won a major, bounced back with four birdies to shoot a 69 and move to 12 under par.
No player has blown a five-shot lead heading into the final round of a major since Frenchman Jean van de Velde’s infamous collapse at the final hole of the 1999 British Open.
Last year’s runner-up Cameron Young is Harman’s nearest challenger on seven under after the American’s third-round 66.
But it was Masters champion Rahm who produced the standout round of the tournament so far, picking up six shots on the back nine to keep alive his chances of a third major.
Harman, ranked 26th in the world, had pulled clear of the field with a stunning second round of 65 in difficult conditions on Friday.
But persistent rain that softened up the Royal Liverpool course for a day of low scoring provided the opportunity for the chasing pack to close in, particularly when Harman got off to a nervy start.
The 36-year-old had only dropped one shot in his opening 36 holes, but bogeyed the first and fourth as his lead was cut to two shots at one stage.
However, Harman’s smooth putting stroke soon found its range as he got back to level par for the day by the turn, with birdies at five and nine.
Back-to-back birdies at the 12th and 13th turned the screw before an impressive up and down to save par at the last.
“It would have been really easy to let the wheels start spinning and really kind of let it get out of control, but I just kind of doubled down on my routine,” Harman said.
“Really proud of the way that I hung in there.”
Young was only denied the Claret Jug 12 months ago by Cameron Smith’s record-equalling total of 20 under par at St. Andrews.
The 26-year-old showed his skill on links golf once more with six birdies.
Rahm had narrowly avoided missing the cut on Friday following rounds of 74 and 70.
The world number three was frustrated by the brutality of Royal Liverpool’s 82 bunkers during his first round and missed four short putts in his second as he sneaked into the weekend at two over par.
But he bounced back in spectacular fashion — missing out on matching the lowest score in major championship history by a single shot.
“That’s the best round I have played on a links course ever,” Rahm said.
“It feels really good, but it’s a lot of work to do tomorrow.”