PORTRUSH, Northern Ireland — Brooks Koepka doesn’t need to reach too far back in the memory bank to know how precarious a big lead can be. He nearly gave away his last major just two months ago after leading by seven shots going into the final round of the PGA Championship.

Shane Lowry surely understands, too, though his memories are more bittersweet.

The pressure of the final round of a major championship can do funny things to a player’s mind. Add in some wind and rain and strange things can happen.

Little wonder Koepka couldn’t wait to get out of the interview area Saturday at the British Open.

He had to practice his putting. You know, just in case.

“Thankfully it’s going to blow tomorrow to have any sort of chance,” Koepka said, “(but) I need to figure out the putter.”

An Open that seemed ripe for the taking turned into a rout of sorts Saturday as Lowry raced down the back nine making birdie after birdie.

Ordinarily, few would pay attention to the player lurking seven behind, tied for fourth with Justin Rose. But Koepka has been nothing but ordinary in winning two U.S. Opens and two PGA Championships in the space of the last two years.

And that kind of pedigree can make those ahead of Koepka take notice when his name appears on the leaderboard.

“I’m assuming they probably do,” Koepka said. “But at the same time I have no idea, I’ve never asked anybody.”

LEE WESTWOOD’S relaxed approach had its ups and downs Saturday – up to the top of leaderboard on the front nine and down a rabbit hole on the back.

The 46-year-old Englishman, seeking to become the second-oldest champion at golf’s oldest major, birdied three of the first four holes and was briefly alone in first place at 9 under.

His trouble started when, at 10 under and just after the turn, he pushed his tee shot right into what was described as a rabbit hole.

“I should really have backed off the shot. I should use my experience,” Westwood said of the wayward drive.

The drive on the 10th ended up between some mounds of earth covered in think brush. Westwood said his ball embedded into the ground and was unplayable.

KYLE STANLEY has had his say on the late-round confrontation with playing partner Bob MacIntrye on Friday.

“It’s kind of a non-issue,” the American said.

It started when Stanley sent a tee shot into the crowd at the 17th hole in his second round. The ball hit the mother of MacIntrye’s caddie, and the Scottish player said he was angry that Stanley didn’t yell “fore.”

The two players briefly exchanged words.

Stanley said he was “caught off guard” by MacIntyre’s criticism because he felt it was enough his caddie, his playing partners and some volunteers or marshals all shouted the warning.

XANDER SCHAUFFELE was still running hot Saturday, and it had nothing to do with a 69 that left him 11 shots out of the lead.

Schauffele accused the R&A of trying to ruin his image by not keeping private that his Callaway driver failed to conform to the limits of the trampoline effect. He says one player jokingly referred to him as a cheater, and he claimed he was not the only player whose driver didn’t pass in random testing this week.

“The R&A, they (ticked) me off because they attempted to ruin my image by not keeping this matter private,” Schauffele said. “This is me coming out and treating them the exact way they treated me.”


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