HOYLAKE, England (AP) — For the first time all week, Rory McIlroy looked a bit vulnerable at Royal Liverpool.
A shot up against a grandstand. Another into a bunker.
Two straight bogeys took a slice out of McIlroy's commanding lead in the British Open, but he closed the front side with a birdie and led Sergio Garcia by two strokes midway through the final round Sunday.
McIlroy teed off with a six-stroke cushion, and the margin grew to seven when a booming drive off the first tee set up a 15-foot birdie that took his score to 17 under.
But the leader bogeyed the par-5 fifth after hitting his second shot up against the stands right of the fairway. He had to take relief, punched his next shot over the green, chipped up 12 feet short of the flag and missed. It was a sloppy 6 at a hole where most of the leading contenders at least made birdie — and a couple walked off with eagles.
At the par-3 sixth, McIlroy missed the green and couldn't get up and down from the sand. It was the first time all week he had bogeyed two straight holes.
McIlroy limited the damage with another birdie at the ninth, making the turn with an even-par 35 and at 16 under overall. But as he headed to the 10th, Garcia got the crowd buzzing up ahead when he rolled in a 12-footer for eagle.
The Spaniard, still seeking an elusive major title at age 34, shot 32 on the front side and dropped his score to 14 under with the eagle.
Garcia looked like the primary challenger to McIlroy. Rickie Fowler, playing in the final group of a major for the second straight time, managed only one birdie on the front and was still five shots off the pace at 11 under — just one shot better than he was at the start of the round.
Shane Lowry matched the best round of the week with a 7-under 65 to reach the clubhouse with a 10-under 278. Jim Furyk, Edoardo Molinari and Victor Dubuisson also were at 10 under.
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