The Open Diary: Santa, is that Pugh?

By Sports Desk July 16, 2021

It was moving day at The Open Championship on Friday but the sunshine refused to budge.

While Louis Oosthuizen recovered the overnight lead that he had lost to Collin Morikawa earlier in the day, a few fans' favourites ensured they will be around at the weekend.

Rory McIlroy and Shane Lowry both did enough to make the cut and world number one Dustin Johnson surged up the leaderboard.

But our man on the ground also had an eye on events on the fringes of the action...

BUTTER FINGERS!

When the players walk off the 18th green they pass under the grandstand that surrounds the putting surface.

Above them will often be a gaggle of fans trying to get their attention so they might throw a golf ball their way.

But when that chance comes you have to be ready to take it, and one young fan's hopes were dashed when Tommy Fleetwood tossed a ball within his grasp but he let it slip.

When a marshal picked it up to throw it back to the waiting fans, it was a different young hopeful who managed to seize the opportunity.

MERRY CHRISTMAS?

Lucas Herbert's caddie had fans in a festive mood, despite it being the middle of July.

Nick Pugh sports a bushy white beard and, as he made his way from the 15th green to the 16th tee, one cheeky fan asked if the jovial Scot had received his Christmas list.

Pugh saw the funny side and retorted: "Ho ho ho!"

BEERY ME...

They are not compulsory, but some spectators are choosing to wear face masks in these coronavirus times.

That is all well and good, but it's important to remove your mask before attempting to drink your beer.

One fan probably won't need to learn that lesson again after inducing much mirth following a botched attempt to take a swig from his pint with his face mouth covered.

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    McIlroy carded a six-under-par 66 to soar to the top of the leaderboard at 25 under for the tournament as the former world number one prevailed by one stroke in Las Vegas, Nevada.

    Fowler was the player to beat heading into Sunday's final round, the former Masters runner-up teeing off with a two-stroke advantage at the Summit Club.

    But Fowler fell following a final-round 71 as McIlroy used an eagle, five birdies and just one bogey for his first PGA Tour success since May's Wells Fargo Championship.

    With his latest triumph, it marked the first time four-time major champion McIlroy – who endured a forgettable Ryder Cup campaign with Europe – had won in his season debut on Tour.

    McIlroy also became the 39th player with at least 20 wins on Tour, moving tied for 35th on the all-time list.

    "It is a big carrot," McIlroy – who played bogey-free after his eagle putt on the 14th – said of the 20 wins. "I didn't know it would be this week."

    Morikawa rocketed up the leaderboard with a stunning 10-under-par 62 but it was only enough for second position at 24 under.

    Fowler and Keith Mitchell (67) finished tied for third at 22 under, a shot better off than Talor Gooch (62), Sam Burns (66), Aaron Wise (66) and former world number one Adam Scott (69).

    Emiliano Grillo tied the CJ Cup 18-hole scoring record with his career-low 11-under-par 61 as he shared 18th, alongside Justin Thomas (64), Jordan Spieth (67) and Xander Schauffele (63).

    Brooks Koepka (68) finished 10 strokes behind McIlroy, while Dustin Johnson was a shot further back following his 67.

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    Overnight leader Laurie Canter rarely looked as though he would get the win to secure his first €1million season, his five over par seeing him finish tied for fourth.

    Soderberg looked to be the one to capitalise on Canter's fall, with the Swede playing some fine golf at times – his exceptional par save at the ninth, consisting of a wonderful chip to within a few inches of the hole, seeing him reach the turn three under for the round.

    Another excellent up-and-down at 11 earned him a birdie and the lead.

    Although a bogey on the 13th pegged him back, Soderberg quickly got that shot back with another birdie on 15 as he looked well-placed to go on and take the trophy.

    But the timing of his costly double bogey on the 17th could not have been worse as Fitzpatrick – a hole back – simultaneously ended a streak of 15 pars with his first birdie of the day. Over the course of a single hole, Soderberg went from a two-shot lead to trailing by one.

    Fitzpatrick – playing in his first tournament since making it two Ryder Cup appearances without a point – quickly turned that into a two-shot lead of his own before closing out with a par that left him at six under for the tournament, three clear of the rest of the pack.

    While Fitzpatrick is by no means a stranger to successes on the Tour, victory at Valderrama was particularly special.

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    "It's one for the bucket list to win around Valderrama with the history it has, and doing it with a bogey-free Sunday, it's extra special, so I'm delighted.

    "You can hit half decent shots and then be behind a tree, you're chipping out or you've got to manoeuvre something. It's a true test to be patient for the whole 72 holes, I'm really pleased with my attitude all week."

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    Fowler carded a nine-under-par 63 to be 21 under after three rounds and two shots clear of four-time major champion Rory McIlroy at the Summit Club.

    The 32-year-old American made his move on the front nine, with five birdies in six holes, finishing with a bogey-free round.

    It marked Fowler's best round in three years, and it was only the third time in his career he had hit all 18 greens in a round.

    "I haven't been there a lot the last couple of years, so it's nice to be back in that position," Fowler told reporters. "It's been a long time coming. It's been a long road, tough times. We're not done."

    McIlroy represents his main competition ahead of the final day, after an exceptional penultimate round with a 10-under-par 62.

    The Northern Irishman reeled off five consecutive birdies on the front nine before finishing his round with an eagle after a fine approach and 21-foot putt on the 18th hole.

    McIlroy is 19-under 197 after three rounds, ahead of Mexico's Abraham Ancer, USA's Robert Streb and Australia's Adam Scott by one shot.

    Mitchell slipped back to 17-under alongside Tyrrell Hatton, giving up his five-shot lead at the halfway point with a disappointing day.

    The one-time PGA Tour champion had dazzled with rounds of 62 and 64 on the opening two days but came back to earth with a one-over-par 73, which included two bogeys and two double bogeys. Mitchell sunk a 28-foot putt for birdie on the 18th hole to lift his spirits.

    Former world number one Jordan Spieth had been among the pack behind Mitchell after two rounds but he had also struggled with an even-par 72 third round.

    Spieth is eight strokes behind leader Fowler, following a frustrating round that included one birdie and one bogey.

    This year's Open Championship winner Collin Morikawa is 14 under, while former major champions Sergio Garcia (12 under), Brooks Koepka (11 under), Justin Thomas (10 under) and Dustin Johnson (nine under) are well off the pace.

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