Rory McIlroy gets emotional after missing cut at the British Open

David Duval's score

David Duval's score

The Irishman, who produced a round of impeccable precision, has a four-shot lead over Tommy Fleetwood going into Sunday's final round.

PORTRUSH, Northern Ireland - After dropping his final putt of the second round of the 148th Open Championship on Friday, Rory McIlroy took off his hat and waved it in the air, as the enormous gallery surrounding the 18th green at Royal Portrush Golf Club gave him a standing ovation. He's leading the field in driving accuracy, though, and almost leading it in greens hit in regulation.

It all happened so nicely today, I don't know what to say.

Inevitably, his final-round failure at the 2016 U.S. Open at Oakmont, where he also had a four-stroke lead going into the final round, was raised and Lowry did his best to downplay that memory.

He is playing on home soil this time.

Holmes had two straight bogeys on the back nine, didn't make as many putts as the opening two rounds, but otherwise was solid for a 69. However, Lowry was actually the last one to do it.

A day earlier, those same fans tried to cheer Rory McIlroy to the correct side of the cut line. I don't want anyone out there feeling sorry for me, whether I triple the last or not. Portrush member Graeme McDowell is still around but out of contention. It drove Lowry on, he wanted to do it for the crowd.

"It's going to be nuts", his caddie, Bo Martin, said. "If you have to get up and hit a drive down a tight fairway, it's fairly hard". "I feel like sometimes the putts haven't gone in, and other times they're bad putts". Sunday's forecast calls for high winds and rain. Round four tee-times have been advanced by two hours. From underneath his umbrella, Lowry will have a view of this era's dominant force in the majors.

Justin Rose is another Englishman in the mix as an eagle on the 12th moved the world number four to six under.

He leads the Open Championship by four shots.

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"I've kind of been preparing for it in the back of my mind for a long time, " he said. We just have to wait and see'. He closed with a 76 as Dustin Johnson rallied for his only major.

"It's only natural, isn't it?" said Lowry. He bogeyed four of the first 10 holes, but a birdie at 12 put him at 4-under-par, the eventual winning score. Not so Fowler, who signed for a 66, his best round of the week by three. A wide grin barely left Lowry's face; and no wonder. He's a different man than he was 3 years ago, though. Golf is less important because he knows his wife, Wendy, and 2-year-old daughter, Iris, will be waiting for him behind the 18th green, regardless of the result.

I finished out on 18 today and I went over to Bo and I said 'at least I won't have to answer any questions about Oakmont. I can't explain how good the crowds were. Tomorrow is a huge day in my career. "I'm going to take the bad shots on the chin and I'm going to take the good shots and try to capitalize on that".

"There's no point in saying I'll go out and enjoy myself tomorrow because it's going to be a very stressful and very hard day". You never know what can happen.

"I think I learned a few things that day about playing in the final round of a major with a lead, that you need to just hang in until the very last minute".

Reasons he won't win: The gap to Lowry is now a big one and he will need his last-day rival to lose the tournament as much as he will need to win it.

'I dug in there, I did my best and showed really good resilience.

Lowry, the son of a famous Gaelic footballer, has won in front of the home fans before.

He was teammates with McIlroy for Irish golf when they won the European Amateur Championship in 2007.

"Obviously there's big consequences tomorrow, but you need to play like there's no effect", he said.

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