July 22, 2023 | 11:34
HOYLAKE, England — Someone had to step up.
Someone had to show that it could be done.
Someone needed to stop Brian Harman from running off and hiding with the claret jug.
Someone needed to start the hunt for Harman, the 36-hole leader who slept on a five-shot lead Friday night and was in position to wrap up the 151st British Open before bedtime Saturday night.
One was Jon Rahm, and he did his thing.
The 28-year-old Spaniard made a moving statement on Saturday, defining the term “moving day, with an eye-opening 8-under 63 in the third round at Royal Liverpool.
By the time Rahm, who started the day at 2-over, just one shot short of the cutline, finished his third round, he was 6-under for the tournament as Harman teed off for his round. By the end of the day, Harman had shot a 69 to move to 12-under, six shots ahead of Rahm entering the final round on Sunday.
“That’s the best round I’ve ever played on a links golf course,” Rahm said. “I think it stands for itself. It’s my lowest round on a links course and it’s an open championship. Also the lowest round shot on this course [in a British Open].
“It feels really good, but it’s a lot of work to do tomorrow.”
In fact, Rahm and the rest of the field are still chasing Harman. Rahm needs another low round Sunday to add a third career major championship to the US Open he won in 2021 and the Masters he won in April.
Rahm, who has already won four tournaments this year and is ranked No. 3 in the world, said he never set a target score as he mapped out his strategy in the third round on Friday night.
“I never thought about a shot,” he said. “The task today was to come out and give myself the best opportunity I could. When you get a birdie, just think about one more. It’s simply all you can do.”
He began his round with four consecutive pars, and at the time the move he eventually made didn’t seem possible. Rahm then got things going with a birdie on the par-5 fifth hole and another on No. 9, a tricky par-3.
Then he went wild on the back nine, carding birdies on Nos. 10, 11 and 12 and more on 14, 15 and 18.
When a reporter suggested to him that he often looked frustrated during the first two rounds, Rahm said, “To be fair, I look frustrated a lot, so…”
Then he added: “I played good golf and I knew what I was capable of. I was frustrated with the mistakes I made. That was it. I gave up chances at major championships, which are very expensive, and that’s mainly it. That’s what I felt.
“I knew I was playing better and I knew my swing and my game felt better than the scores I was shooting. If [the second-round] finish is not an example, is it? I’m 2-under, hit the fairway on 18, have a chance to finish 3-under, and make a silly bogey from 30 yards away. This is just a small example of it. Today was the complete opposite, of course.”
Asked about his prospects of picking the third leg of the career Grand Slam on Sunday, Rahm said: “Well, there’s a lot of golf left. I feel like I’ve done a lot of good work the last couple of weeks, and I’ve done a lot of good work this week, and I’ve done what I’ve needed to do, which is to give myself an opportunity.”
Rahm tends to run hot sometimes and was asked after his round if it was hard to be patient.
“I think I’m a lot more patient than most people think I am, to be honest,” he said. “It’s just that I show my frustration a lot more than other people, but I’m extremely positive on the golf course.”
Rahm’s 63 was his lowest round in a major, and it was the lowest round ever at the British Open at Royal Liverpool.
When someone mentioned that Seve Ballesteros, his idol who won three Opens, never shot a 63 in an Open, Rahm said, “I’d rather win three times and never shoot a 63. I hope that answers your question.”