Rory McIlroy has not so much got one hand on the Claret Jug as eight fingers and a thumb.
The Northern Irishman takes a six-shot lead into the final round of the Open Championship after a grandstand finish to round three saw him eagle two of the last three holes tocard a four-under 68.
That puts him on 16-under-par, with his nearest challenger, Rickie Fowler, some way back on ten-under.
To put the size of former world No.1 McIlroy’s lead into context, the biggest 54-hole Open lead posted by a player who didn’t then go on to win currently stands at five shots: Macdonald Smith in 1929 and Jean van de Velde in 1999 are the two victims of that unfortunate statistic.
McIlroy’s lead is also the largest 54-hole advantage in the championship since Tiger Woods won at St Andrews in 2000.
The numbers, therefore, appear to be pointing towards the inevitability of a win for Rory, And whilst he’s refusing to get carried away with himself, he did go so far as to admit that he is happy with his current situation.
"I’m comfortable with the position that I’m in." - Rory McIlroy
“I’m comfortable leading the tournament,” said the 25-year-old. “This is the third night in a row that I’ll sleep on the lead. It helps that I’ve been in this position before and I’ve been able to convert and get the job done.
“So, I’m comfortable with the position that I’m in, comfortable with my golf game, comfortable with how I’m hitting in, and comfortable on the greens.”
He’s comfortable, then. So he should be. In three rounds, he has made just four bogeys. That’s in contrast to 16 birdies as well as two eagles, both of which came today, on the 16th and 18th holes. Impressively, he has played the back nine in 11-under-par this week, the same of which is true for the par-5s. He’s also had the most ‘one putts’ of any player in the field, with 28.
The facts don’t lie: Rory is miles out in front and deservedly so. But from here on in, it becomes a test of nerve. That’s something he’s acutely aware of.
“Whenever you have such a big lead, you really can’t think about anyone else but yourself,” he said. “You have to think about how you’re going to control your emotions, how you’re going to control whatever thoughts you have, trying to stay completely in the present and focus on what you need to do.
“I’ve won from seven shots back this year . I know how quickly leads can go, so I’m taking nothing for granted.”
That’s as maybe but let’s just assume he does close out the win. Suddenly, he would be a three-time major winner and, more pertinently, three-quarters of the way towards completing the career grand slam, after wins in the 2011 US Open and the 2012 PGA Championship. Just the Masters to go, then.
"I didn’t think that I’d even have the chance, at 25, to go for three legs of the grand slam." - Rory McIlroy
“Not a lot of people have achieved that,” he noted. He’s right. Only five players – Ben Hogan, Gene Sarazen, Gary Player, Jack Nicklaus and Tiger Woods – have done so. “If everything goes the right way tomorrow I’d be in pretty illustrious company.
“So, not getting ahead of ourselves here but, yeah, it would mean an awful lot.
“I never thought 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, but I’m going to try to put all 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.”
Rory McIlroy :: Can he do it?
Can you see anyone overtaking him or is Rory McIlroy going to lift the Claret Jug tomorrow night? How do you see the final round panning out? Leave your thoughts in our ‘Comments’ section below.