Fleetwood’s strong start with a 5-under 66 led to a three-way tie for the lead in the afternoon round. The morning wave, including McIlroy, couldn’t catch up. Min Woo Lee (68) and Shubhankar Sharma (71) followed at 3-under 139, with Emiliano Grillo (74) among others at 140.
McIlroy hoped to continue his momentum from a par save on the 18th, but he ended with a 70 and found himself nine shots behind Harman. He praised Harman’s performance and acknowledged the challenging conditions, with the course playing tough. Dustin Johnson struggled with an 82, while Justin Thomas recovered with a 71, focused on securing a spot in the PGA Tour’s postseason.
Harman’s round was truly impressive, showcasing his tenacity as a pint-sized lefty with Georgia grit. He excelled at keeping the ball in play on the grass, avoiding the treacherous pot bunkers, and remarkably, he had only one bogey in 36 holes.
Right from the start, Harman caught everyone’s attention with birdie putts from 20, 25, and 18 feet on the second, third, and fourth holes, respectively. Even a long shot on the par-5 fifth turned into an easy birdie when his chip hit the pin and stopped inches away.
He demonstrated his skill and composure under pressure, chipping in for a crucial par on the 12th after an errant shot from a fairway bunker. Two remarkable par saves on the 16th and 17th holes set him up for a strong finish.
Reflecting on past experiences, Harman learned from a previous 54-hole lead at the U.S. Open in 2017, where he faltered in the final round, allowing Brooks Koepka to claim victory. He acknowledges the mistake of overthinking the lead and is determined not to repeat it.
McIlroy, too, can relate to the pressure of leading a major tournament, having lost a four-shot lead in the final round of the 2010 Masters. He also knows from the past that maintaining a significant lead at Royal Liverpool can be a challenging task.