sport

McIlroy eyes grand slam

Rory McIlroy already has half an eye on a career grand slam after putting one hand on the Claret Jug on Saturday afternoon.

The Northern Irishman moved into a six-shot lead at the Open Championship after a third round 68 at Royal Liverpool and is on course to add an Open title to his US Open and US PGA victories.

"It would mean a lot of hype going into Augusta next year," McIlroy correctly predicted when asked about the impact of winning on Sunday.

"Not a lot of people have achieved the career grand slam and if everything goes the right way tomorrow, to get three-quarters of the way there is some achievement by the age of 25.

"I'd be in pretty illustrious company so it would mean an awful lot. I never thought that I'd be able to be in this position. I didn't think that I'd even have the chance at 25 to go for three legs of the grand slam so I'm going to try to put all of that out of my head.

"It would be way too much to think about and way too much to ponder. First things first. Just play a good solid round of golf tomorrow and if that means that I'm going to Augusta next year with a bit of hype, then so be it."

American Rickie Fowler is McIlroy's closest pursuer after also carding a 68 on Saturday.

Fowler made four birdies in his first six holes and three more in succession from the 10th which, coupled with a McIlroy bogey on the 12th, meant the Florida neighbours were tied on 12 under par.

Four holes later Fowler was five behind after carding three bogeys in four holes as McIlroy birdied the 14th and hit a 252-yard four-iron onto the 16th green to set up an eagle from 18 feet.

McIlroy also bogeyed the 17th from a similar place as Fowler - who is the only player to finish in the top five in both majors this season - and although Fowler made birdie on the last, McIlroy stamped his authority on the tournament with another eagle from 10 feet.

"Obviously the finish speaks for itself," McIlroy said. "Rickie Fowler was getting close to me. I knew if I could hit good drives on 16 and 18 I would have a good chance of birdie, I didn't expect to hit eagles but there you go.

"It is a good thing I have experienced this before, good and bad. Hopefully some of that experience I can take into tomorrow.

"My game plan all week has been to take care of the par fives and I want to do that again tomorrow."McIlroy looked happy and relaxed during his post-round press conference and while the tournament is effectively his to lose those sort of thoughts are not entering his head.

"This is the third night in a row that I'll sleep on the lead. I feel very comfortable leading the tournament," added the Northern Irishman, who pledged to maintain his routine of going to the gym, eating and then settling down to watch a film.

"It helps that I've been in this position before and I've been able to get the job done.

"I think whenever you have such a big lead you really can't think about anyone else but yourself.

"You have to think about how you're going to control your emotions, control whatever thoughts you have and focus on what you need to do."