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McIlroy to complete wire-to-wire run on Open championship leaderboard?

McIlroy 18 holes away from wire-to-wire Open championship
McIlroy 18 holes away from wire-to-wire Open championship
Photo by Mike Ehrmann/Getty Images

The 2014 British Open leaderboard has looked the same every day so far. Even if there are different runners-up, the Open championship leaderboard has been topped by Rory McIlroy after each 18-hole sprint without fail. If the same pattern holds on July 20, McIlroy will hoist the Claret Jug and his third major trophy in a matter of hours.

After the severe challenge Rickie Fowler posed through the first 13 holes on July 19, McIlroy still opened up his biggest lead to date with a late birdie and two late eagles. With a six shot lead going into his tee off at 9:40 a.m. est, the most suspense around this final round might be whether he shoots a major record -20 at the end.

Another 68 like the one he ultimately shot in the third round would do the trick, and would be more than enough to hold off Fowler, Sergio Garcia and Dustin Johnson. However, McIlroy would likely take the Open championship with a mere 70 or even a 72, considering how lopsided the leaderboard looks after 54 holes.

Of course, since McIlroy is still someone who can shoot close to an 80 without warning -- and since the 15'th anniversary of Jean Van de Velde's infamous 72'nd hole collapse was honored this week -- the final outcome isn't a completely forgone conclusion. But even if McIlroy stumbles, Fowler, Garcia and Johnson would still need to do their part with a long string of birdies and mistake-free golf.

However, each time the Open championship leaderboard has gotten tighter, McIlroy has answered with a hot streak of his own. If he has to sweat it out at the end after all, will he have enough for a final surge? Given how McIlroy won each of his past major titles by eight shots, it's still unclear how he would answer the call if a major was on the line in the final holes.

This Open championship hasn't looked like one where McIlroy would have to answer that question. If he caps off a wire-to-wire run on top of the leaderboard, the question he'll have to answer next is when he will win the Masters and complete an early career Grand Slam.

McIlroy can complete the third leg of that Slam starting at 9:40 a.m. est on ESPN.