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Shane Lowry leads British Open by four shots after shooting 63

Sam Farmer, Los Angeles Times on

Published in Golf

PORTRUSH, Northern Ireland -- Under slate-gray skies, with a passionate crowd cheering his every swing, Irishman Shane Lowry found something Saturday that no one else could:

Daylight. Glorious daylight.

Lowry distanced himself from the field by shooting a 63 in the third round of the British Open. He masterfully worked his way around Royal Portrush with eight birdies and no bogeys.

With the giddy home crowd serenading him by belting out the soccer anthem "Ole, Ole Ole," Lowry nearly drained his shamrock-stamped ball on 18 for his fourth birdie in a row. He missed his long putt by an inch. Still, the gallery roared.

Goosebump golf at its finest.

"Honestly, that's the most incredible day I've ever had on the golf course," said Lowry, 32, bearded and beaming. "I honestly can't explain what it was like."

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As they walked off the 17th tee, Lowry said caddie Brian "Bo" Martin told him: " 'We might never have a day like this on the golf course again. So let's enjoy this next half hour. You know what I mean?' And that's what I did. The crowd was incredible. I just can't believe what it was like."

So crackling was the energy, it felt like the stretch run on a championship Sunday. But it was a Saturday, and Lowry's work is far from done. He's at 16 under and leads second-place Tommy Fleetwood by four strokes. Two shots behind Fleetwood is American J.B. Holmes, who has miles of ground to make up despite three rounds in the 60s.

Four shots is a lot, but certainly not insurmountable. Lowry got an excruciating reminder of that three years ago in the U.S. Open at Oakmont. He had a four-shot lead heading into the final round before sputtering to a six-over 76 on Sunday, as Dustin Johnson blew past him for the win.

"I think I learned a few things that day about playing in the final round of a major with a lead, that you need to hang in until the very last minute," said Lowry, who missed the cut at the previous four British Opens. "You never know what can happen. And I'm going to do the same tomorrow.

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