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 nervous 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,” said Harman. “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-equaling total of 20 under par at St Andrews.
The 26-year-old showed his skill on links golf once more with six birdies.
– Rahm on a roll –
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’ve played on a links course ever,” said Rahm.
“It feels really good, but it’s a lot of work to do tomorrow.”
– McIlroy fades –
Rory McIlroy had the mass galleries following the Northern Irishman believing he could end a nine-year major drought when he picked up three shots in the opening five holes to move to four under.
But the world number two failed to build on that momentum as he played the final 13 holes at one over to remain nine shots adrift of the lead at three under.
Home favorite Tommy Fleetwood also suffered a frustrating day despite raucous support from the locals.
The Englishman, who hails from nearby Southport, was level par for the day to sit in a five-strong group at five under.
That includes Viktor Hovland, after the world number five shot a 66 to remain in contention for his first major title.
World number one Scottie Scheffler will not be adding to his sole major at the 2022 Masters.
A one-over-par round for the American on Saturday pushed him to four over for the tournament.
PGA Championship winner Brooks Koepka is also at four over after a 72.
Only Rahm’s record round bettered the 65 of Alex Fitzpatrick, brother of 2022 US Open champion Matt Fitzpatrick.
Alex, four years Matt’s junior, is ranked 561 in the world, but will start on Sunday two shots ahead of his brother at four under.