Shane Lowry is adamant that old wounds won’t open as he heads in to the weekend as joint leader of the 148th Open Championship.
The Clara man shot a second successive 67 to share top spot on eight-under with American JB Holmes.
Lowry was in scintillating form, making six birdies over the first 10 holes for outright leadership before dropped shots on 14 and 18 brought him back to Holmes, and one ahead of the English pair of Tommy Fleetwood and Lee Westwood.
Having lost a four-shot lead in the final round of the 2016 US Open at Oakmont, Lowry was inevitably asked about the pressures that bear down in golf for someone “sleeping with the lead”.
Asked if he’d allowed himself to think of winning The Open, he replied: “You start thinking about it when people start asking you about it,” Lowry said.
“Look, I’m obviously going to be thinking about it tonight. There’s no point in shying away from it.
“I’m in a great position. But, my God, we have a long way to go.
“There are two rounds of golf on this course against the best field in the world. I’ve been doing great this year. I need to go out and shoot the best score I can tomorrow and hopefully it leaves me in a decent position going in to Sunday.”
Lowry is trying to become only the fifth Irish winner of The Open after Fred Daly, Pádraig Harrington, Darren Clarke and Rory McIlroy.
Harrington, Clarke and McIlroy all missed yesterday’s cut, as did Mallow amateur James Sugrue.
McIlroy, the pre-tournament favourite, made a valiant effort to rescue his weekend with a birdie blitz leading to a 65, the best score of the opening two days and a record score for the newly-developed course.
“I just left myself with too much to do” said McIlroy, visibly moved by the ovation he received on the 18th. Asked to sum up his emotions, he said: “There’s a lot of them. Disappointed not to be here for the weekend. Unbelievably proud of how I handled myself today coming back after what was a very challenging day yesterday. And just full of gratitude towards every single one of the people that followed me to the very end and was willing me on.
“As much as I came here at the start of the week saying I wanted to do it for me, by the end of the round there today I was doing it just as much for them as I was for me. I wanted to be here for the weekend. Selfishly I wanted to feel that support for two more days.”
“To play in front of those crowds today and to feel that momentum and really dig in, it’s going to be a tough one to get over.”
There’s also a weekend off for an out-of-sorts Tiger Woods, who remarked of his schedule: “It’s been a lot of travel, a lot of time in the air, a lot of moving around and everything. I just want to go home.”
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