Rory McIlroy was nine holes away from ending an eight-year major drought as he nursed a two-shot lead at the British Open on Sunday, fighting off challenges from all corners of the Old Course.
McIlroy and Viktor Hovland began the final round at St Andrews with a four-shot advantage and needed almost all of it as ideal conditions saw charges up and down the leaderboard.
McIlroy has preached patience the entire week and the Northern Irishman was doing just that as he reached the turn without a bogey while carding a single birdie.
But that was enough to break two free of Hovland, who headed onto the back nine with nothing but pars on his card with the exception of a bogey at the fourth.
Behind them the action was furious.
As the co-leaders set out under overcast skies they no doubt noticed the low scores put up by early starters like Sadom Kaewkanjana of Thailand and Mexico’s Abraham Ancer who were in the clubhouse with seven-under 65s.
For American Cameron Young and Australia’s Cameron Smith, who started their challenge from just four back, the message was received — the Claret Jug is still within reach.
Smith mounted his charge with a birdie at the second and added another at the fifth and 10th to cut the deficit in half.
Young had a more adventurous up and down start with five birdies and two bogeys but ended up in the same place just two behind leaving it all to play for coming home.