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At pillow-soft Portrush, Shane Lowry torches Open Championship leaderboard

Shane Lowry hammered Royal Portrush on Saturday. (Getty)

A day that began with a logjam at the top of the leaderboard ended with Shane Lowry absolutely throttling the field at Royal Portrush. Lowry seized control of the Open Championship with a Saturday 63, a round that ranks among the best in major championship history.

Lowry’s round was the 13th 63 in major championship history, and he’s compiled the lowest 54-hole total in Open Championship history. His total score of -16 put him four shots clear of a field that was tied up at -10 just a few hours before.

How strong was Lowry’s round? The second-place finisher on the day, Tommy Fleetwood, began the day a stroke behind Lowry, shot a 66 ... and ended up four strokes back.

Now, here’s where it gets tricky. Lowry has been here before. He was four strokes ahead of the field in 2016 at the U.S. Open at Oakmont after shooting a Saturday 65. But he collapsed in the final round, shooting a 76 as Dustin Johnson passed him for the win. How much will that play into Sunday’s round? We’ll find out a bit earlier than expected.

A little further down the leaderboard, some of the world’s best played well, but not nearly well enough to keep pace. Brooks Koepka, the odds-on favorite coming into the weekend, shot a wobbly-putting four-under round to finish at -9. Lee Westwood, a sentimental favorite who held a share of the lead midway through the round, faded and is now eight strokes behind Lowry. JB Holmes, who played in the final pairing with Lowry, shot -2 and thus ended up six strokes back.

Inclement weather forced the R&A to move up Sunday’s tee times by an hour, which is a bit of a shame — terrible weather is a hallmark of the Open Championship — but it will allow Lowry to get back out on the course that much faster. Lowry and Fleetwood will tee off at 8:47 a.m. Eastern on Sunday morning in the final pairing.

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Jay Busbee is a writer for Yahoo Sports. Contact him at jay.busbee@yahoo.com or find him on Twitter or on Facebook.

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