PORTSTEWART, Northern Ireland (AP) — Jan Rahm shot a second straight 5-under 67 at the Irish Open and moved into a share of the lead with Daniel Im in the third round on Saturday.
On a day of good scoring over the links at Portstewart Golf Club, the 11th-ranked Rahm moved to 17 under par overall after making four consecutive birdies from No. 11 and parring his way home.
Im, who was tied for the lead with Benjamin Hebert after the first two rounds, birdied five of his opening 14 holes and scrambled superbly at the end to shoot a 68 and stay alongside Rahm. Hebert is a stroke behind after shooting 69.
Rahm, one of golf’s hottest talents, tied for 10th at the French Open last week in the Spaniard’s first appearance on the European Tour and looks in good shape to collect his second victory of 2017, after the Farmers Insurance Open at Torrey Pines on the U.S. PGA Tour in January.
Having turned professional only a little over a year ago, Rahm also finished third and second in his first two World Golf Championship events.
“I’ve never led going into the final round so I am a little inexperienced in that sense,” said Rahm, who was persuaded to play the event by tournament host Rory McIlroy. “But I know what I did at Torrey Pines, both good and bad. Hopefully I won’t need two eagles in the last five holes again to win tomorrow.
“I have exceeded my expectations massively. My putting and short game has never been my best ally on links courses, but this week has been the opposite. I’m not used to making this many putts and it feels great.”
Seve Ballesteros, Jose Maria Olazabal and Sergio Garcia are Spaniards to have won the Irish Open.
Im, a 542nd-ranked American, is in even more unusual territory.
“I’m just going to enjoy every moment of it tomorrow,” Im said. “It’s going to be amazing playing with Jon Rahm. He’s one of the fastest rising stars in the world. It will be fun.”
The No. 2-ranked Hideki Matsuyama dropped into a tie for 22nd after a 72.
Julien Quesne and Scott Hend both shot 64s for the lowest round of the day and are fifth and sixth, respectively. Also tied for sixth on 13 under was Olympic champion Justin Rose, who shot a bogey-free 66 despite hitting just one fairway.
“Ahead of the Open Championship at Birkdale (starting on July 20), I’ve certainly tested myself, my scrambling capabilities,” Rose said, “but come through so far strongly this week.”
Jamie Donaldson, who was tied for 12th after 36 holes, withdrew before his third round because of a pulled muscle in his back.