The Open: Brian Harman shrugs off ‘unrepeatable’ heckles and a grisly start to take commanding lead into final round

Brian Harman will enjoy the comfort of a five-shot lead when he tees off for the final round of the Open Championship, as the American took a step closer to his first major crown with another strong performance at Royal Liverpool on Saturday.

The 36-year-old looked in danger of sliding as he bogeyed two of the first four holes, but the Georgia-born golfer recovered admirably, closing with a nerveless par-saving putt to card two-under 69 and preserve the cushion he had begun the day with.

A two-time winner on the PGA Tour, a runner-up finish at the 2017 US Open marks the closest Harman – a diminutive presence at five feet seven inches – has come to winning one of men’s golf’s four flagship tournaments.

In the last 40 years, only 11 golfers have previously carried a lead of five strokes or more into the final 18 holes of a major championship, according to the PGA Tour.

Nine of them converted their advantages into wins, and Harman will be desperate to avoid joining the two who infamously didn’t: Greg Norman at the 1996 Masters, and Jean Van de Velde at the 1999 Open Championship.

“You’d be foolish not to envision [winning], I’ve thought about winning majors for my whole entire life,” Harman told reporters.

“It’s the whole reason I work as hard as I do, why I practice as much as I do and why I sacrifice as much as I do.”

Harman was paired with England’s Tommy Fleetwood who, having begun the day five shots behind the American in second, shot a second straight even-par 71 to fall to tied-fourth.

Merseyside-born and similarly chasing a long-awaited first major, Fleetwood has received vociferous crowd support all week – but home backing occasionally spilled over into rival attacking, according to his playing partner.

“I’d be lying if I didn’t hear some things that weren’t super nice today towards me,” Harman said. “I hear them, but at the same time, I don’t try to let that influence the decision I’m about to make.”

Asked to relay what he heard, Harman added with a smile: “It’s unrepeatable.”

American compatriot Cameron Young – similarly pursuing a first major – leads the chasing pack, surging five places to second after an excellent five-under 66. He will pair with Harman when they tee off in as the final group Sunday at 2:15 p.m. BST (9:15 a.m. ET).

Few golfers enjoyed a better day at a rainy Royal Liverpool course, but none enjoyed better than Jon Rahm, one shot behind Young.

The Spaniard tallied eight birdies – including seven in his last nine holes – to soar 36 places up the leaderboard to solo third.

His eight-under 63 was the lowest round of the tournament so far and marked his career-low score at a major. After victory at The Masters in April, another blistering score Sunday could see the world No. 3 become the first player to win two major championships in the same year since Brooks Koepka in 2018.

Four golfers join Fleetwood in fourth; Norway’s Viktor Hovland, France’s Antoine Rozner, Australia’s Jason Day, and Austria’s Sepp Straka.

Alex Fitzpatrick, younger brother of 2022 US Open champion Matt Fitzpatrick, saw a dream major debut reach new heights with a superb 65, the second-best score of the round after Rahm.

The 24-year-old ended the day level in ninth with India’s Shubhankar Sharma and two shots ahead of his sibling.

Rory McIlroy will need a miraculous final day turnaround if he is to end his nine-year wait for a fifth major. The Northern Irishman, who won the last time the major was hosted at Royal Liverpool in 2014, shot two-under 69 to stay nine shots behind leader Harman.

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