Michael Hoey moved closer to giving Northern Ireland another big golf victory, taking a three-shot lead Saturday after three rounds of the Dunhill Links Championship.
Hoey built on the second-round lead he shared with England’s Tommy Fleetwood. He shot a 6-under 66 at Carnoustie that put him at 18-under 198 in the $5 million tournament.
Northern Irishmen Graeme McDowell and Rory McIlroy – winners of the last two US Opens – were in pursuit. McDowell had a third straight 67 and is in second place at 15 under.
”My short game was unbelievable, the best it’s ever been,” Hoey said. ”I’m definitely getting all the breaks as well. Everything has just gone my way so far.”
It wasn’t all good news for the Northern Irish, however, with British Open champion Darren Clarke missing the cut at 5 under after a 70 left him 1 over.
Fifth-ranked Dustin Johnson of the United States – second behind Clarke at Royal St. George’s – was the other high-profile name not to make Sunday’s round after a 70 at St. Andrews left him 2 under.
Hoey, a former British Amateur champion ranked No. 271, is rarely mentioned in the same breath as his three compatriots.
”He’s a supremely talented player, always has been,” McIlroy said. ”For him, it’s been a mental thing, but he obviously has a clear head and is playing very well.”
McDowell was a stroke clear of South Africa’s Louis Oosthuizen, who is alone in third after shooting 69 in his first competitive return to St. Andrews since his British Open triumph there last year.
McIlroy (66) was among a group of seven players at 13 under along with top-ranked Luke Donald and Simon Dyson, who both shot 63s at St. Andrews to equal McIlroy’s course record set last year. Fleetwood was also 13 under after a 71 at Carnoustie.
With every member of the 168-man field having played the Old Course at St. Andrews, Carnoustie and Kingsbarns over the past three days, the 70 players to have made the cut will play St. Andrews again Sunday.
While Donald – the leader of the money lists on both sides of the Atlantic – birdied the last hole to match the course record, Dyson just missed shooting a 62 when his putt for a 10th birdie in his round came up 6 inches short at the last.
Dyson has won the Irish Open and the KLM Open in the Netherlands over the past two months, while also starring at the Vivendi Seve Trophy, and is putting his improvement in form down to giving up drinking.
”I haven’t had a drink in 11 weeks. I’m quite enjoying how I’m feeling,” he said.