Shane Lowry has criticised the "drunken idiots" among the Whistling Straits crowd at the Ryder Cup and said his wife was abused.

Europe went down 19-9 to the United States on Sunday – a record margin in the Ryder Cup between the two teams – with Lowry collecting a point in a memorable four-ball win with Tyrrell Hatton on Saturday.

The Irishman explained that the majority of the Wisconsin crowd were welcoming and courteous as Steve Stricker's side marched towards regaining the trophy.

However, the 2019 Open champion was left unimpressed by a "small percentage" of fans across the first two days, especially in the afternoon sessions where he suggested alcohol had taken its toll.

"I didn't think it was that bad until I asked my wife what it was like for her, and they got abuse coming around as well," Lowry told reporters ahead of the Alfred Dunhill Links Championship.

"So it's not very nice is it? And it's not very nice for them to have to listen to this. But that was a small percentage of the crowd.

"I finished my match on 16 on Sunday and I was walking back down to follow the other groups and I got a huge ovation off the crowd and in the grandstand on 16, that was pretty cool. And I thought I got on well with the crowd last week as best I could.

"But they are obviously a home crowd and they are going to be a partisan crowd. Some of the stuff is not very nice, but that's just the way it is.

"Some people are idiots, especially when they drink. Nobody turns into a genius drinking, and that's what they were doing last week. Especially if you were out in the afternoon matches, it was loud."

Lowry was a captain's pick by Padraig Harrington, and his performance in the four-balls sparked faint hope of a 'Miracle at Medinah' inspired comeback.

However, Patrick Cantlay dispatched Lowry 4 and 2 in the singles matches to leave Harrington's men staring at a thrashing.

Despite the loss, Lowry hailed the memorable debut outing, while expressing his frustrations that he and his team-mates could not perform for captain Harrington.

"I thought about it quite a bit on the way home on Monday, and I'm just so disappointed for Paddy to be honest," he continued.

"But as regards the week itself, I couldn't have envisaged what it would be like for me. It was amazing. It was one of the best experiences of my life, and it's the only thing I want to do for the next two years.

"I don't care what I do for the next two years now as long as I'm back in Rome to try to take the trophy back off them."

Ryder Cup team captains Steve Stricker and Padraig Harrington have confirmed their selections for Saturday's four-ball session at Whistling Straits.

Europe have their work cut out to retain the title as they lost the day's foursomes 3-1 to trail the United States 9-3 in Wisconsin.

The pressure will therefore be on Shane Lowry and Tyrrell Hatton to get a point on the board when they face Tony Finau and Harris English in the first four-ball match.

That is followed by Jon Rahm and Sergio Garcia teaming up for a third time to take on Brooks Koepka and Jordan Spieth, while Scottie Scheffler and Bryson DeChambeau meet Tommy Fleetwood and Viktor Hovland in match three.

The final match of the session will involve Dustin Johnson and Collin Morikawa for the USA, with Ian Poulter and Rory McIlroy their opponents.

Poulter and McIlroy were well beaten by Xander Schauffele and Patrick Cantlay in Friday's foursomes, but Harrington is showing faith in the pair.

Johnson and Morikawa were successful against Hatton and Paul Casey earlier on Saturday in the foursomes, meanwhile, as they prevailed to hold off a European fightback.

"Dustin and Collin are great players, and again they played great golf – opening up with three birdies," Casey told Sky Sports. "But I'm very proud of how we fought. 

"I think Tyrrell was probably a little bit disappointed. I hit a couple of poor shots. I think Tyrrell felt like he hit a couple of poor shots. But what a fight. 

"Tyrrell is such a gritty little player and he's a key part of our team, and I would team up any time with that guy.

"You know, there was one stage we didn't think we would get them as far as we did, and then I guess we had a chance to take them all the way and make it a great battle. 

"But you tip your cap to Collin and Dustin. There's a reason why they are as good as they are, and they are clearly very, very difficult to beat."

Europe captain Padraig Harrington has selected Ian Poulter, Sergio Garcia and Shane Lowry as his wildcard picks for the Ryder Cup, but there is no place for Justin Rose on the 12-player roster.

Rose has competed in five of the last six editions of the biennial tournament, but he was overlooked by Harrington after a poor season on the PGA Tour that saw him fail to make the top 125 on the order of merit list.

Harrington opted for experienced names in Garcia and Poulter, while Lowry was given a reprieve of sorts after being knocked out of the automatic selection places when Bernd Wiesberger finished tied-20th at the BMW PGA Championship on Sunday.

Wiesberger, Poulter, Garcia and Lowry join Jon Rahm, Tyrrell Hatton, Paul Casey, Matt Fitzpatrick, Tommy Fleetwood, Rory McIlroy, Lee Westwood and Viktor Hovland, who all qualified through the rankings.

"I am absolutely thrilled with my team, with all of our picks we have the strongest 10, 11 and 12 we've ever had," Harrington said on Sunday.

Asked about the inclusion of Poulter, who is set to compete in his seventh Ryder Cup, Harrington said: "He is undefeated in singles. He lifts himself, he lifts his partners, he lifts the team.

"I'm getting a player who is in probably the best form of his life. He consistently motivates people around him. That's so important to the team. I know I have players who are good enough to deliver and Poulter is at the heart of our team."

Europe are looking to retain the trophy at Whistling Straits later this month following their 17.5-10.5 triumph over the United States in Paris three years ago.

USA finalised their squad on Wednesday, with captain Steve Stricker selecting Jordan Spieth and Xander Schauffele among his wildcard picks.

Schauffele was one of four rookies chosen by Stricker along with Daniel Berger, Harris English and Scottie Scheffler, with Tony Finau – part of the beaten side in 2018 – completing the captain's picks.

Collin Morikawa, Dustin Johnson, Bryson DeChambeau, Brooks Koepka, Justin Thomas and Patrick Cantlay had already locked in spots for the USA.

Francesco Laporta heads into the final round at the BMW PGA Championship with a one-shot advantage after a solid effort on Saturday.

The Italian may not have carded one of the day's most impressive scores, with three players managing to go round in 66, but his three-under 69 was enough to put him top after starting the day third.

Laporta carded an eagle on the five-par fourth as the world number 264 made the turn in 34, before producing a composed back nine to climb to the summit.

A couple of birdies and seven pars put him a shot ahead of Canter and helped capitalise on the struggles of overnight leader Kiradech Aphibarnrat.

His scores of 64 and 68 were followed up by an untidy 74 on Saturday, seeing the Thai drop to 10 under for the tournament, four adrift of Laporta.

The leader was understandably delighted with his day's work, though he accepts he may have to be better with the putter if he is to bring the trophy home.

"It was a great day for me, I hit the ball pretty solid. I missed some putts on last four holes, but I'm pretty happy with my game," he said. "The best thing I did today was to focus shot by shot.

"I just have to try do better tomorrow [with the putting]. I was feeling okay, not so under pressure, but tomorrow will be different."

Laurie Canter held a share of the lead with Laporta at the eighth after sinking a brilliant 20-foot putt for a birdie and then drew level again at the 12th, but ultimately ended the day a shot behind in second.

Four players are a further shot back and then another three head into the final day on 11 under for the tournament.

Two of them are Shane Lowry and Bernd Wiesberger – the latter just needs to finish in the top 50 to secure a spot in the Europe's Ryder Cup team, while the former is just behind Lee Westwood for the final automatic berth in Padraig Harrington's team.

Kiradech Aphibarnrat holds a one-shot lead over Laurie Canter after the second round of the European Tour's BMW PGA Championship at Wentworth.

Aphibarnrat shared the overnight lead with Christiaan Bezuidenhout, who went round in level par on Friday, but a four-under 68 moved him into top spot as the Thai sits on 12 under.

Canter, who has only seven European Tour top-10 finishes since 2010, was joint-fourth after Thursday's play but a second-round 66 placed him one stroke shy of Aphibarnrat.

Returning to the European Tour's flagship event for the first time since 2006, Adam Scott sits in third place after recovering from a double-bogey six on the third to reach 10 under.

Scott's playing partner Justin Rose, who knows victory at Wentworth will guarantee an outright spot in Padraig Harrington's Ryder Cup team, joined Jamie Donaldson and Billy Horschel in a share of fourth after carding 68, which put him on nine under overall.

Ryder Cup hopeful Shane Lowry finds himself embroiled in numerous qualification scenarios with Bernd Wiesberger, who closed on six under, and is now four shots back from the lead after producing a six-under 66.

The Irishman is part of a seven-man group in a tie for seventh and the 2019 Open Champion feels he is thriving under the pressure of securing a spot at Whistling Straits on September 24.

"Coming here with a little bit of pressure on me needing to perform and play well and I've done that the first two days," he said. "I'm pretty happy to be honest.

"Obviously I want to make the [Ryder Cup] team automatically. I think I've played some really good golf over the last few months to put my hat in for a pick on Sunday evening if I do need one.

"I'm here to win the golf tournament."

Kiradech Aphibarnrat and Christiaan Bezuidenhout finished eight-under par to share the first-round lead at the European Tour's BMW PGA Championship at Wentworth.

Aphibarnrat, whose last of four European Tour wins came in 2018, produced a magnificent back-nine run of seven birdies in eight holes to finish with a bogey-free 64.

Late starter Christiaan Bezuidenhout, who won two European Tour events in 2020, reached five-under through the front nine before closing with three consecutive birdies to claim joint-top spot.

Former world number one Adam Scott made his first appearance in the European Tour's flagship event since 2006 and sits one shot back in third, a bogey on the 16th his only blemish in an otherwise impressive seven-under 65.

Amid the backdrop of European Ryder Cup team selection, Justin Rose finished two shots behind playing partner Scott to occupy joint-fourth place, knowing victory at Wentworth will guarantee his place to face the United States on September 24.

But the 2016 Olympic champion, who is tied with Laurie Carter and Masahiro Kawamura, is enjoying the pressure and appreciates his Ryder Cup destiny is in his own hands.

"All eyes are on me now, which is great," Rose told Sky Sports. "That is a good start where I can focus on the positive scenario, which is me winning the tournament to get into the team by right.

"That [winning] is obviously Plan A, then Plan B is all of the other stuff.

"I didn't actually appreciate how many scenarios were still in play this week with so many players, so there's a lot to shake out obviously over the next few days."

European captain Padraig Harrington, who completed a level-par first round, will also make three wildcard picks for Whistling Straits, opening chances for the likes of Rose, Ian Poulter and Sergio Garcia.

Prior to Thursday, Shane Lowry occupied the ninth and final qualifying position for the European Ryder Cup team but the selections will be finalised after the conclusion at Wentworth.

The 2019 Open champion recorded a two-under 70, Austrian Bernd Wiesberger wrestling back four shots with a birdie-eagle finish for his 71 to maintain pressure for the final qualification spot.

Francesco Molinari is out of contention for the Ryder Cup after a poor run of form but record a three-under 69, while defending champion Tyrell Hatton struggled to two-over on day one.

Justin Thomas described being involved at the Tokyo Olympics as "the coolest thing I've ever been a part of" as he said taking the gold medal would be "the absolute ultimate".

Golf is being staged at the Games for just the fourth time ever and the second time since 1904, having returned to the schedule in Rio five years ago.

The field is not the strongest, with Bryson DeChambeau and world number one Jon Rahm pulling out with coronavirus, while Dustin Johnson, Louis Oosthuizen and Sergio Garcia opted not to play and Brooks Koepka failed to qualify.

But many other big names will take part, including ​world number four Thomas, who won his only major at the US PGA Championship in 2017 and is among those targeting a medal at Kasumigaseki Country Club.

The United States are the only nation with more than two golfers taking part in the event and Thomas says the chance to win gold for his nation is what makes this event so unique.

"It might be the coolest thing I've been a part of. It's not very often where you get so excited about being a part of a tournament," he said at a news conference on Wednesday.

"I really do truly think of Ryder Cups, majors, whatever it is, this is the coolest thing I've ever been a part of. It's unbelievable. Everyone is going to think differently about it.

"I know there's some people who don't think it's that big a deal and don't think it's that cool. 

"I don't know what it is but maybe it's just because being an Olympian, you're known as the best athlete in the world and it's something that golf isn't exactly always linked to."

Asked whether he would rather win a major championship or an Olympic medal, Thomas replied: "If I was going to choose, I'll take the major. 

"But this is something that would mean the absolute ultimate. It would just be the coolest thing to just be able to say not only did you play in it but that you won a gold medal.

"It's just so different. I've tried to compare it, I've tried to think about it.

"This is obviously more special because it's harder to win because you have less chances, but major championships change your life in more than one way."

Like Thomas, Ireland's Rory McIlroy will tee off at the Olympics for the first time when the delayed 2020 event gets up and running on Thursday.

Four-time major winner McIlroy sampled the the course on Tuesday and was impressed by the quality, though he is disappointed that no supporters will be in attendance this week.

"When Hideki [Matsuyama, of Japan] won the Masters, the first thing I thought of was how good is the atmosphere going to be at the Olympics," McIlroy said.

"Unfortunately, that's not the case. So yeah, it's tough.

"It's not the Olympic experience anyone dreams of having. I was even saying to Shane [Lowry] how good would it be to go and watch some of the other events this evening. 

"That's the unfortunate part about it, but there's three medals up for grabs, and we're all here trying to play for them."

McIlroy, who has been drawn with tournament favourite Collin Morikawa and South Korea's Sungjae Im, added: "The course itself is great. It's really, really nice.

"I've always been a big fan of Tom Fazio courses anyway. I'm trying to sort of think what I could compare it to back in the States, but it's a really fun golf course

"It's in great shape, obviously. It's immaculate. There's plenty of opportunities out there for birdies, but if you don't hit the fairways, the rough is pretty penal in spots."

Ireland's other representative in the men's golf tournament is Shane Lowry, who is ranked 40th in the world but is eager to challenge for a top-three finish.

"What people don't understand is we don't win too many medals," he said. "So I think it would be huge for me and huge for the country.

"Obviously it's going to take a lot of good golf. It's going to take something special this week. But it would mean an awful lot to me."

The 149th Open Championship concluded in thrilling fashion on Sunday as Collin Morikawa claimed the Claret Jug.

It was a fitting finale to a memorable tournament, which marked the return of fans en masse to watch golf's oldest major.

Royal St George's was bathed in sunshine for all four days and it was a joyous event for everyone in attendance.

Stats Perform's man on the ground said a fond farewell to the Kent links, but not before one last wander around the course.

SHELTER FROM THE WARM

The soaring temperatures made walking the course a test of endurance, and not everyone was keen to partake.

What few spots of shade there were soon became occupied by weary bodies, sheltering from the warmth of the sun.

The queues at the water refill points were longer than for the grandstands.

CELEB SPOTTING (TAKE TWO)

It may have been premature to share the story of a chance encounter with British comedian Michael McIntyre on Saturday, as Sunday heralded the arrival of an even bigger celebrity.

Milling around outside the entrance to the media centre, and somehow not surrounded by a large crowd of autograph hunters, was One Direction's Niall Horan.

He's a keen golf fan and can often be seen at the majors rubbing shoulders with the biggest names in the sport.

FLAGGING...

At the end of a long tournament, some members of the media pack wanted a morale-boosting moment, so waited patiently for Champion Golfer of the Year Morikawa to exit from the interview room in hope of an autograph or photo.

Two had souvenir flags with Open Championship branding, in the expectation Morikawa might take the time to sign them.

He bolted through the doors carrying the Claret Jug, saw his waiting fans, but had no time to stop, telling them: "Sorry guys. Maybe I'll see you later."

Oh, the disappointment. 

Open champion Collin Morikawa revealed the unexpected and tasty secret to his success after winning the Claret Jug at the first attempt on Sunday.

The 24-year-old produced a blemish-free 66 in a stunning final round at Royal St George's to thwart the charge of Jordan Spieth and eclipse overnight leader Louis Oosthuizen.

Morikawa, who also won the 2020 US PGA Championship on debut, secured his second major win in eight entries after starting the day a shot behind Oosthuizen.

In the end his greatest beef was with 2017 Champion Golfer of the Year Spieth, who recovered from being two over through six holes to sign for a 66 himself, finishing two back.

But Morikawa, who saw playing partner Oosthuizen limp to a closing 71, clearly relished the challenge as he went bogey-free to make mincemeat of the field in sizzling sunshine on the Kent coast.

But, when grilled by the media as to what the key to his triumph was, Morikawa had an answer nobody saw coming.

"The secret? Well, I never do this, but I had a burger for four straight days, so my body is probably feeling it. I know my body's feeling it," he said.

"I think I just enjoy these moments, and I talk about it so much that we love what we do. And you have to embrace it.

"You have to be excited about these opportunities, and that's how I looked at it today, especially coming down the stretch, was I'm excited. To have the Claret Jug right here in my possession for a year, I believe, I'm excited to have it."

Runner-up Spieth lamented his putting as he came up short, but Morikawa was delighted with that side of his own game.

He made a succession of potentially tricky putts, including one for birdie from around 15 feet on the 14th just after Spieth had cut the gap to one.

"Definitely one of the best [putting displays], especially inside 10 feet," he said.

"I felt like it was as solid as it's going to get. I don't think I really missed many from that distance. Especially in a major.

"I think in a major on a Sunday in contention, I wasn't thinking about anything other than making a putt.

"I'm going to tell myself probably tomorrow: 'Why can't I keep doing that all the time?'.

"But you know, I'm going to try to figure out what worked and use that for the future because I know I can putt well. I know I can putt well in these pressure situations. I've just got to keep doing that."

Jordan Spieth was left to lament a slack finish to his third round after he came up just short at The Open on Sunday.

The 2017 Champion Golfer of the Year recovered from two over through six to sign for a final-round 66, which left him two shots shy of winner Collin Morikawa.

But it was Saturday's round at Royal St George's that bothered the three-time major winner, who dropped shots at each of the last two holes.

Reflecting on a close call with what would have been a first major triumph since that success at Royal Birkdale four years ago, Spieth was quick to point out where it went wrong.

"It's hard to be upset when I was a couple over through six," he said. "I couldn't have really done much more after that point.

"But the finish yesterday was about as upset as I've taken a finish of a round to the house. I walked in and I said: 'Is there something that I can break?'.

"I knew that was so important because I would have been in the final group."

Spieth is usually a safe bet with the putter in his hand, but the 27-year-old felt that side of his game was lacking in Kent.

He took 1.58 putts per greens in regulation, which was better than the field average of 1.68, but Spieth felt he was well short of his own high standard.

"My putting is not where I want to be at all," conceded. "I say at all; It's progressing the right direction, but it's not where it has been.

"I know what needs to do to get there, and it's just very difficult to do. But it's rounds like today or this week, major championship rounds, where you have to obviously test not only your touch out here, but also a lot of knobs and breaking putts and trust lines. It's a good test for it.

"I just wasn't extremely sharp with the putter this week. I was sharper than I was at Augusta, and it's been a little bit kind of here and there this year.

"My bad weeks have been okay and my good weeks are really good, but I needed to put in a little bit of work."

Paying tribute to champion Morikawa, who has two major wins from eight starts, Spieth added: "He swings the club beautifully, gets it in positions that make it very, very difficult to not start the ball online, so therefore, he's going to be very consistent tee to green.

"At 24, obviously there's a bright future ahead."

Collin Morikawa produced a stunning final round to win The Open by two strokes from Jordan Spieth at Royal St George's.

The 2020 US PGA Championship winner added a second major to his list of honours in only his eighth appearance in such tournaments, with this his debut at the oldest of golf's four headline events.

His blemish-free 66 on Sunday ensured he overturned the one-stroke overnight lead that Louis Oosthuizen had held, while Spieth closed with the same score as he came up just short.

Morikawa nailed a lengthy birdie putt on the 14th, just after Spieth's run of four gains in four holes around the turn had cut the gap to one, and the 24-year-old never looked back as he sealed the prize on 15 under.

 

Spieth, the 2017 champion at Royal Birkdale, and Oosthuizen, who triumphed at St Andrews in 2010, had each been chasing a second Claret Jug.

But Morikawa showed nerves of steel as he refused to wilt in the sunshine on the Kent coast, the American averaging 1.5 putts per greens in regulation.

He needed to hit such a high level to keep Spieth at bay, his compatriot rallying from two over for the day after six holes to close at 13 under.

Oosthuizen endured the frustration of finishing as runner-up at the US PGA Championship and the U.S. Open this year and he suffered more disappointment following a closing 71.

Pre-tournament favourite Jon Rahm wrapped things up in style with a 66 and he will return to the world number one spot next week, displacing Dustin Johnson. 

Reigning champion Shane Lowry finished at six under, while Rory McIlroy closed with a 71 to wrap up a low-key outing at even par.

SHOT OF THE DAY

Morikawa's approach shot on the 14th was short and left him with a long uphill putt for birdie on a par five that was playing at a generous average of 4.6.

Spieth was on the charge and momentum looked to shift in the three-time major winner's favour, but Morikawa turned a potential negative into an overwhelming positive with one decisive swipe of the putting blade.

It was the point at which the engravers may as well have started putting his name on the silverware.

CHIPPING IN

Shane Lowry: "I really enjoyed the whole week. It was an amazing experience. Walking down the last hole today was one of the coolest things you'll ever get to do, and I got to do it."

Rory McIlroy: "For me at the minute it's just the process of trying to work my way back to the sort of form and the sort of the level that I know I can play at."

Brooks Koepka: "I like coming over here and playing links golf. It's always a bunch of fun, and I've always said that it's the one tournament a year where the fans actually know what a good shot is."

A LITTLE BIRDIE TOLD ME

- Louis Oosthuizen's last three major results are now tied second (US PGA Championship), second (U.S. Open), and tied third (The Open).

- Shane Lowry's failure to retain the Claret Jug means no player has successfully defended the honour at Royal St George's since Harry Vardon in 1899.

- Germany's Matthias Schmid won the silver medal for low amateur after finishing two over par.

Louis Oosthuizen will tee off his final round at The Open on Sunday with a one-shot lead over playing partner Collin Morikawa.

The 2010 winner, who has finished as runner-up six times in majors, is eyeing a wire-to-wire victory at Royal St George's, where he starts his fourth round at 14:35 local time at 12 under.

American Morikawa also has a second major in his sights, having claimed the 2020 US PGA Championship.

Jordan Spieth is firmly in the mix, the three-time major winner and 2017 Champion Golfer of the Year at nine under, while pre-tournament favourite Jon Rahm is two strokes further back.

 

Corey Conners and Scottie Scheffler are each on eight under and hoping to earn maiden major triumphs.

Glorious weather means the course is set fair for low scoring for anyone who can summon the courage and accuracy to take on some tough pin positions at the Kent links.

There was promise in the early scores coming in, with American trio Rickie Fowler, Xander Schauffele and Bryson DeChambeau all shooting 65.

If any of the leading trio should go that low, it will rule out the chasing pack and reduce the contenders down to the final couple of groups on course.

That would mean Brooks Koepka's surge up the leaderboard would still leave him short, the four-time major winner having made the turn in 31.

Spectators soaked up the sunshine on another glorious day at Royal St George's as The Open Championship's third round left us poised for a thrilling finale.

On the course it looks set to be a final-day shoot-out between three major champions, with Louis Oosthuizen, Collin Morikawa and Jordan Spieth setting the pace.

Meanwhile, there was plenty happening on the other side of the ropes as fans lapped up the entertainment on offer.

Our man on the ground brings you all the latest after being out and about on the Kent links on Saturday...

CELEBRITY SPOTTING

Big sporting events tend to attract stars from all manner of show business backgrounds, and it seems stand-up comedians are not immune to the allure of a golf major.

As this reporter was roaming alongside the 18th fairway he heard a familiar voice asking where the official Open shop was.

"It's the big building over there with 'the shop' written on it," I said.

"You're very helpful, thank you," replied British comedian Michael McIntyre.

PLAN OF ACTION 

As a spectator at a golf event, you have a multitude of options: pick a spot and make it your own for the day; follow a particular group; or maybe just wander around and see what you see.

One cluster of fans who had only just arrived were gathered around a course map, each apparently with very different ideas about what to do.

In such situations, it takes a leader to sort things out and, luckily for this group, the best man for the job stepped forward.

"Why don't you argue about this from somewhere you can actually see the golf?" he said, ushering the group away from the entrance.

WESTWOOD GRAFTING

Away from the gaze of the cameras and long after his round of 70 had come to a close with a birdie at the 18th, Lee Westwood was putting in the hard yards on the practice range.

The Englishman was one of a handful of players grafting away in the evening sun as, even at the age of 48, he showed every day presents an opportunity to learn and improve.

That's the commitment it takes to succeed!

Louis Oosthuizen will take a one-shot lead into the final round of The Open, where two fellow major winners are his closest rivals.

The 2010 champion will go out in the final group at Royal St George's on Sunday, when he will have 2020 US PGA Championship winner Collin Morikawa for company.

Oosthuizen, who sits at 12 under and is chasing a wire-to-wire triumph, has had two runner-up finishes in majors this year, taking his career tally to six.

Also in the mix is Jordan Spieth, who claimed the Claret Jug in 2017, but the American's third round finished with back-to-back bogeys to leave him three adrift.

 

Corey Conners and Scottie Scheffler, both in search of maiden majors, are poised at eight under.

Pre-tournament favourite and U.S. Open champion Jon Rahm cannot be discounted at seven under, a score matched by Oosthuizen's fellow South African Dylan Frittelli.

Rory McIlroy threatened to get involved at the top end of the leaderboard after making the turn in 31, but three back-nine bogeys ended his hopes, while reigning champion Shane Lowry closed on five under.

It was a day to forget for world number one Dustin Johnson, whose 73 left him eight strokes adrift.

SHOT OF THE DAY

Danny Willett may ultimately have given back the two shots he gained with his hole-out eagle on the par-four 10th, but it was still a glorious shot.

The 2016 Masters champion was six under overall at that point and could scarcely believe what he had done.

CHIPPING IN

Rory McIlroy: "Sort of a tale of two nines. I played great on the front nine, hit some really good iron shots and converted some putts and really got it going. Then the back nine played tough."

Shane Lowry: "I have mixed emotions, to be honest, because I played great. I left a lot of shots out there."

Danny Willett: "It's always a bonus when they go in when you haven't holed a shot for a hell of a long time."

A LITTLE BIRDIE TOLD ME...

- The 14th was the most generous hole as the par five played at an average of 4.53.

- McIlroy's five birdies was his best return from his first nine holes at an Open.

- Conners hit 92.86 per cent of fairways in his four-under 66.

Louis Oosthuizen and Jordan Spieth will each continue their bids for a second Open Championship title amid fierce pressure at Royal St George's on Saturday.

The Kent links was once again bathed in sunshine as the 149th edition of golf's oldest major returned for the third round in Sandwich.

Firmer greens and tougher pin positions made life a little harder but the course still seemed nicely set up for low scoring, with Oosthuizen's 129 the lowest overall tally at the halfway stage of an Open.

The South African slept on a two-shot lead over Collin Morikawa and the 2010 Open champion will tee off alongside the 2020 US PGA Championship winner at 15:55 local time. 

Oosthuizen has been remarkably consistent in majors since his Open triumph 11 years ago, finishing as runner-up an incredible six times.

 

Spieth, who claimed the Claret Jug in 2017 and is eight under, goes out with Oosthuizen's compatriot Dylan Frittelli in the penultimate group.

Rory McIlroy looked to be making a charge when he made the turn in 31, but three bogeys on the back nine meant he signed for a 69 and well out of the picture.

World number one Dustin Johnson will get a couple of holes in before the leader gets his third round up and running, with the American starting four shots back.

With pre-tournament favourite Jon Rahm moving to five under overall through three holes, the Spaniard is still in the mix, but reigning champion Shane Lowry's bogey at the fourth left him adrift.

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