Road to ruin, St Andrews' famous 17th bares its teeth

·3-min read

Rory McIlroy's near perfect third round 66 at the British Open put the Northern Irishman into a share of the lead with Ryder Cup teammate Viktor Hovland on 16-under-par on Saturday.

However, even the world number two could not escape punishment on the famous 17th at the home of golf.

McIlroy's only dropped shot of the day came on the "Road Hole" when his approach overshot the green and the tarmac surrounding it to settle near a stone wall.

"It could have been way worse," said McIlroy. "It could have been up against the wall. It could have been anywhere.

"So to chip it onto the green and take two putts, I was happy enough to get out of there with a five."

The four-time major winner was far from alone with Hovland in the minority of those able to just make par at the penultimate hole.

Hovland also found himself on the road beyond the green, but two-putted himself to a four.

"On 17, it's kind of hit and hope for the best," said the Norwegian.

"I love it because you just have to be really disciplined and, if you hit a good shot, there's still a chance you might get rewarded for it."

The 83-strong field played the 17th in a cumulative 52-over-par.

There was just one birdie compared to 44 bogeys, three double bogeys and Lucas Herbert's seven on the par four.

"Seventeen is a very, very hard hole," said England's Tommy Fleetwood, who moved up to eighth on the leaderboard with a 66. "Bogey is not bad."

So it proved for McIlroy as he limited the damage to one dropped shot and bounced back with a birdie at the 18th to remain in a great position to end his eight-year major drought.

McIlroy was hailed as being destined for greatness when he won his four majors in little over three years between 2011 and 2014.

The 33-year-old has had to deal with a series of ups and downs since, but has been in consistently good form all year.

He will almost certainly finish in the top 10 of all four majors for the first time in his career after finishing second at the Masters, eighth at the PGA Championship and in a tie for fifth at the US Open.

However, lifting his second Claret Jug and following in the footsteps of legends such as Tiger Woods, Jack Nicklaus and Seve Ballesteros by winning the British Open at St Andrews would truly signify McIlroy is back to his best.

"The more people bring up the result, the more I'm just going to harp on about process and sticking to my game plan, because that's the only thing I can do," he added.

"I've done that well for the last three days and it's put me in this position. I just need to do it for one more day."

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