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McIlroy stands even taller on top of Open championship leaderboard

McIlroy blows Open championship open to close third round
McIlroy blows Open championship open to close third round
Photo by Stuart Franklin/Getty Images

The 2014 British Open championship leaderboard was finally facing some changes early on July 19. While Rory McIlroy had been comfortably on top of the Open leaderboard throughout, Rickie Fowler made a huge run at the championship to tie the wire-to-wire leader through 13 holes of the third round. But just six holes later, McIlroy turned what was seemingly turning into a nail biter into another slaughter instead.

After going into the third round with a four shot lead, and then losing it all due to Fowler's -6 surge in the first 13 holes, McIlroy ended the day with a whopping six shot lead after all. The tide turned when McIlroy birdied the 14'th hole and Fowler bogeyed it, with the misfortune only beginning from there.

Fowler went on to bogey the 16'th and 17'th holes, although he salvaged a birdie on 18. Unfortunately for him, McIlroy kept going in the other direction, as he eagled the 16'th and 18'th to easily erase a bogey at 17. In the end, despite all the early twists and turns, Fowler ended the day the same way he started it on the Open championship leaderboard -- six shots behind McIlroy.

The only real change in the end was the order of the challengers behind McIlroy, as Fowler surged to second while Dustin Johnson went down to a tie for third with Sergio Garcia. Yet Johnson and Garcia are still seven shots back at -9 overall, as they will need to be even hotter in the final round than Fowler was to start of the third -- only they'll have to keep it up for 18 holes.

Of course, nothing will change on the Open championship leaderboard as long as McIlroy sinks birdies and eagles. Although the competition looks lopsided at the moment, McIlroy has had his chances to blow it with one of his customary bad streaks. But despite his poor start in the second round and Fowler's big challenge in the third, the Irishman has answered to build up an even greater lead at every turn.

If he does this for one more day, he will win the third leg of a career Grand Slam at a mere 25 years old. After Fowler put up his best shot and then crumbled anyway, it's hard to see what else can be done to knock McIlroy off the path to an Open championship.