Rory McIlroy leads 2014 British Open: Can he bring home Claret Jug?

Rory McIlroy leads the rest of the British Open field by six strokes after the third round. Can Rory McIlroy bring home the Claret Jug on Sunday?

(AP Photo/Jon Super)
Rory McIlroy of Northern Ireland plays a shot off the 11th tee during the third day of the British Open Golf championship at the Royal Liverpool golf club, Hoylake, England, Saturday July 19, 2014. McIlroy finished with a 68 for the day, and a six-shot lead.

Rory McIlroy is on a goarse-lined path to history.

After three rounds of the 2014 British Open, the Irish Boy Wonder is six shots clear of the rest of the field at Royal Liverpool. His nearest rival is the glow-in-the-dark-suited Ricky Flower, at 10-under par. Sergio Garcia and Dustin Johnson are seven shots behind the leader.

McIlroy is clearly conscious of what lies ahead on Sunday. A British Open win means "I'm three quarter's of the way to a career Grand Slam, and that would obviously be very nice going to Augusta next year trying to complete that. So, I have a lot to play for tomorrow. It's a huge day for my career. And, I feel like I'm up to the task," he told reporters after the Saturday's round.

McIlroy is in the zone, dominating the field in a way that only Tiger Woods has done in recent memory.

He's on track to win in the fashion that netted him his first two majors. In 2011, McIlroy blew away the field at Congressional Country Club to win the US Open by eight shots. He had the same margin of victory at Kiawah Island to win the 2012 PGA Championship.

Over the past three rounds at the Royal Liverpool Golf Club, he's shot 66, 66, and 68. If he shoots four under on Sunday, he'll break Tiger Woods 2000 British Open record for lowest score in relation to par: 19-under.

If McIlroy cards a 66 on Sunday, he will break Greg Norman's 1993 record for the lowest British Open total of 267. But there's one other Greg Norman record he'll want to avoid:

The largest 54-hole lead lost in major championship history:  6 shots at the 1996 Masters.

Indeed, in professional golf and particularly in golf's majors, there is a checkered history of epic meltdowns. 

In 1999, Frenchman, Jean Van de Velde entered the final round of the British Open with a five-shot lead. He struggled through the round but had managed to build a three-stoke lead heading to the 18th hole. Then, disaster struck. He hit an errant tee shot. That was followed by a series of errors, including an infamous scene of him rolling up his pants legs to consider a shot from the water. He finished with a triple bogey and that sent him into a playoff with two other competitors, which he lost.

In fact, in 2011 as the media were hailing McIlroy as the next Tiger Woods, when he suffered an epic collapse. He was leading the Masters tournament by four strokes entering the final round. As he began the back nine, he was still tied for the lead. But McIlroy shot a triple bogey on No. 10, then four-putted for double bogey on No. 12, and then his tee shot went into Rae's Creek on hole No. 13.  He was out of contention.

That experience should help McIlroy cope with the expectations Sunday.  And obviously, McIlroy will be focusing not on Van de Velde or his Masters meltdown, but on what he's done right at the 2014 British Open so far. 

Sunday's weather isn't forecast to be wet, but to be breezy, with gusts of 10-20 miles per hour. 

And Tiger Woods? Woods had another inconsistent round with five birdies, a triple bogey, a double bogey, and a bogey. He's three over par after three rounds.

Phil Mickelson isn't in contention either. He finished the third round at 1-under par, on a day with three bogeys and four birdies

of stories this month > Get unlimited stories
You've read  of 5 free articles. Subscribe to continue.

Unlimited digital access $11/month.

Get unlimited Monitor journalism.