Local hero Fleetwood eyes storybook finish at Birkdale

After a dismal start on Thursday when it appeared the pressure of all the hype had affected him as he shot an opening 76, the 26-year-old has recovered superbly and lies at one over par going into Sunday’s final round.

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Asked by reporters if he still felt he had a chance of the most outlandish win, Fleetwood shrugged: “Who knows? We’ll have to see what the weather brings this afternoon. After a good one, if I have another good one tomorrow, we’ll see.”

He followed up his resilient second-round 69, which he felt was one of his best of the year and enabled him to make the cut for the first time in four Opens, by recording four birdies and an eagle on Saturday while playing alongside another Birkdale hero, Justin Rose.

Followed by another big crowd all cheering the hirsute hero who was brought up in neighbouring Southport, Fleetwood reckoned that making things happen on the final weekend had represented another terrific experience in his big week.

“It would have been pretty rubbish staying home for the weekend. It was lovely,” he smiled, only disappointed that he did not quite get back to level par as his launch pad for a powerful Sunday finale.

“But it’s just great to be able to have two rounds on the weekend. This is an experience that you don’t get every week.

“Getting clapped on to every green and every tee and people that you know. Having four days of it is a lot better than two.”

Was there not a sense of what might have been following his stuttering start?

“Shot six-over the first round, so deal with it. That’s what you’ve got to do. I wish I would have started off better. But that’s golf and that’s life,” said the world number 14.

“Another low one tomorrow, might top-10 it or something. Just depends on what the conditions are.”

(Reporting by Ian Chadband; Editing by Clare Fallon)

Grace breaks major single round record with 62

In the 442nd major championship, Grace achieved what the greats of the game could not in 157 years of trying and cracked the previous best of 63, which had been achieved 31 times.

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Grace, ranked 35th in the world, made eight birdies in his bogey-free, eight-under-par third round at the par-70 Royal Birkdale course.

After making birdie on the par-four 16th and par-five 17th, Grace needed just a par on the final hole to break the record — which he did with two putts.

The South African said he might have been helped by being unaware of the fact that he was in with a chance of making history.

“I didn’t know what was going on 18, I promise you,” he told reporters.

“I honestly didn’t. You know, I was just so in the zone of playing, hole after hole. I knew I was obviously playing really well, and making the turn in five-under was pretty special.

“I thought if I could make a couple more on the back nine, then it’s going to be a great score. I had no idea that 62 was obviously the lowest ever,” he added.

The 29-year-old said that his caddie, Zack Rasego, had been the first to break the news to him.

“Zack came up and said, “You’re in the history books.” And I was like, ‘What are you talking about?’ Now it makes the day even sweeter,” he said.

After Friday’s windy and rainy conditions, the course on the Lancashire coast was more placid on the third day, and with the soft greens and a generous set-up, there were plenty of players heading for low scores.

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Still coming to terms with his achievement, Grace said Rasego had probably helped him by keeping the historical context to himself.

“I think he did. He never said anything, so good on him, I suppose. But after I made the putt, that was the first thing he told me. So obviously he must have known,” he said.

American Johnny Miller was the first player to make 63 in a major, when he won the 1973 U.S. Open.

Grace added: “It’s special, it really is. It’s always nice shooting a low number, whether it’s any day of the week, whether it’s in a tournament or with friends.

“And to do it at the Open Championship is pretty special. It’s something I really enjoyed and something I’ll remember forever, definitely.”

(Reporting by Simon Evans,; Editing by Neville Dalton)

Wallace won’t go to six for injured Moylan

Peter Wallace has endorsed Tyrone May as Matt Moylan’s replacement at five-eighth if the star playmaker is ruled out with a hamstring injury.

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Wallace played the majority of his career in the halves – including four games for NSW in 2008 and 2009 – before shifting to hooker in recent years.

He filled in at five-eighth in the closing stages of Penrith’s 24-16 win over Gold Coast on Saturday after Moylan was taken from the field as his hamstring continued to tighten.

Moylan declared he would be fit for Thursday’s clash with the Bulldogs, but given the Panthers’ five-day turnaround he will likely be racing the clock.

The Panthers’ depth at hooker – where Mitch Rein is stuck in reserve grade – would make Wallace a logical choice to return to the halves.

But 31-year-old Wallace said May should return to the starting side after making his debut against the Warriors last week when both he and Moylan were injured.

“I don’t think I’ll be there,” Wallace said.

“Tyrone May did a really good job there last week, so I expect him to come in if Moyza is out next week.

“He played really well today as well as he went back to reserve grade … I would probably expect him to come straight in.”

Returning star Bryce Cartwright could also be an option at No.6 for coach Anthony Griffin after he played there earlier in the season.

Cartwright returned from a knee injury through reserve grade for Penrith on Saturday, and scored one try and set up two others in their 48-18 flogging of Illawarra.

“I just wanted to get him on there and get his confidence and let him play,” Griffin said.

“Even when he was on earlier in the year he was playing injured.

“I think everyone saw that. It’s good that he is fully fit at the moment.”

Cartwright has spent the past two months alongside Wallace in rehabilitation for his knee.

The former Penrith captain said he had seen a shift in the youngster after a drama-filled start to the season on and off the field.

“He had a rough start to the year off the field which didn’t help things,” Wallace said.

“But he’s in a really good place now off the field and he is getting his body right now too.

“So I expect him to come back with a lot of confidence.”

Resurgent Day in need of an Open miracle

His mojo back, Jason Day is targeting an historic 61 as he fights to complete a miracle comeback and win the 146th Open Championship.

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Day and free-rolling Scott Hend led an exciting Australian charge during the third round at Royal Birkdale, the pair sharing the clubhouse lead after firing superb five-under-par 65s at Royal Birkdale.

By the end of the day, though, their even-par 54-hole totals trailed runaway leader Jordan Spieth by a distant 11 shots.

Day knows only a special final round will be enough to contend for the Claret Jug.

But after successfully predicting one of the world’s elite would post golf’s first-ever 62 at a major championship, Day truly believes 61 is possible on Sunday.

“Right now I’m very happy with how I played today. I think if I can do that and play the way I did today going into tomorrow, there’s definitely a chance of shooting 61,” he said.

“I hope so. I hope so. That would be nice if I could shoot that one.

“The pin placements aren’t too crazy. You get yourself in the right positions, you can hole a lot of putts.

“And I think I left four in the heart today that would have got me to nine (under) if I holed those.

“So I definitely think there’s a good opportunity to shoot 62 out there today.”

And that’s exactly what South African Branden Grace did, even if it wasn’t enough to reel in Spieth.

The two-time major winner and world No.3’s unblemished five-under 65 left him three clear of fellow American Matt Kuchar (66) and with one hand on the trophy.

Only a Masters-like final-round crash from Spieth can help Day, Hend or Marc Leishman – at one over and 12 back after a 66 – break Australia’s 24-year Open title drought.

Like Day after his second-round 76, Hend thought he had missed the halfway cut before cashing in on his good luck with five straight back-nine birdies to charge from 61st to equal 18th.

Adam Scott entered the third round confident of making a move, but a laborious even-par 70 left the former world No.1 out of the running 14 shots off the pace.

It was a fittingly forgettable way to mark five years to the day since Scott infamously squandered his four-shot lead with four holes to play at Royal Lytham and St Annes.

Qualifier Andrew Dodt continued his impressive Open debut with a 69 to join Scott at three-over, while Aaron Baddeley is a further four strokes behind after a 74.

Adam Bland (75-72) and Matthew Griffin (70-77) missed the halfway cut by two shots.

Major championship rookie Ryan McCarthy (76-72) also failed to secure weekend action, as did Cameron Smith (74-75) and Ashley Hall (75-74).

Hezbollah, Syrian army in border attack

Lebanon’s Shi’ite militia Hezbollah and the Syrian army have advanced against Sunni militants on the second day of an assault to drive them from their last foothold along the Syria-Lebanon border, pro-Damascus media reports.

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The operation has targeted Sunni Muslim insurgents from the former Nusra Front, a group that was aligned to al-Qaeda and who have controlled the barren, mountainous zone of Juroud Arsal.

A military media unit run by Hezbollah said its forces on Saturday captured a strategic hilltop area called Dhahr al-Huwa, previously a key Nusra Front base, which allowed them to overlook several border crossings in the area.

Hezbollah, which is backed by Iran’s Shi’ite government, has played a critical part in previous campaigns against Sunni insurgents along Lebanon’s border, part of its wider role backing President Bashar al-Assad in the Syrian war.

Hezbollah’s role has drawn criticism from its Lebanese political opponents, including Sunni Prime Minister Saad al-Hariri, who is a Sunni.

Footage on Hezbollah’s Al Manar TV channel showed fighters on a hilltop firing assault rifles and wire-guided missiles at militant positions. The media unit also reported that some Nusra fighters had raised white flags in surrender.

The chances of any negotiation with the militants appeared dashed, however, when a mediator and former deputy mayor of Arsal was killed in rocket fire by Nusra fighters, Lebanon’s National News Agency reported.

The rocket hit Ahmed al-Fliti’s his car, killing him and wounding another passenger, it said. Previous negotiations had failed to secure the militants’ withdrawal from the Juroud Arsal area to other rebel-held parts of Syria.

Syrian warplanes meanwhile struck militant positions on the Syrian side of the border, near the town of Fleita, it said.

The offensive began on Friday and killed at least 23 Nusra militants on the first day, the Hezbollah unit said. At least five Hezbollah fighters were also killed.

A security source put Hezbollah’s death toll at 15 early on Saturday, and said at least 43 militants had been killed.