Dubai Duty Free Irish Open third round leaderboard
-17 D Im (US), J Rahm (Spa); -16 B Hebert (Fra); -15 H Tanihara (Jap); -14 J Quesne (Fra); -13 J Rose (Eng), S Hend (Aus), O Fisher (Eng), R Fox (NZ); -12 B Dredge (al), M Southgate (Eng)
Selected others: -11 T Fleetwood (Eng); -9 H Matsuyama (Jap); -8 P Harrington (Ire),S Kjeldsen (Den),S Gallacher (Sco); -6 M Hoey (NI),SLowry (Ire), M Fitzpatrick (Eng), P Dunne (Ire); -5 I Poulter (Eng); -4 MA Jimenez (Sp)
Daniel Im and Jon Rahm will take a one-shot lead into Sunday’s final round of the Irish Open at Portstewart.
Spaniard Rahm, the world number 11, and Im, from the United States, ranked 542, lie 17 under par, one ahead of Benjamin Hebert, with Hideto Tanihara 15 under.
Olympic champion Justin Rose remains in contention four shots off the lead.
Frenchman Julien Quesne and Scott Hend of Australia made best use of the sun-drenched conditions by equalling the course record with eight-under-par 64s.
Quesne carded nine birdies and Hend an eagle and six birdies in a blemish-free round to move into contention in the upper echelons of the leaderboard by matching the best rounds of the tournament so far.
Quesne is fifth on 14 under, while Hend is one shot worse off, along with Rose, Oliver Fisher and New Zealander Ryan Fox.
Rank outsiders Im and France’s Hebert, 254 in the world rankings, were joint leaders after both day one and day two – and the pair remain firmly in contention, long putts for par on the 18th securing rounds of 68 and 69 respectively.
Im is aiming to become the first American winner of the Irish Open since Hubert Green triumphed at Portmarnock in 1977.
“I played pretty solid and although I picked up a shot at the first, I didn’t feel like I made too many birdies compared to the first two days,” said Im, who began the week 114th in the Race to Dubai standings.
“Two good putts at the last two holes helped me to a 68 – the weather was great, there were lots of people out supporting me and I enjoyed every moment.”
Rahm overcomes slow start
Rahm negotiated the first 10 holes of his third round in one under par but four birdies from the 11th to the 14th helped propel him up the leaderboard and a round of 67 as he bids for a first European Tour success.
“Staying patient was key to my round as I knew I was playing well, even though the putts were not dropping in the early part of my round,” said Rahm, who is hoping to emulate the achievement of compatriots Seve Ballesteros, Jose-Maria Olazabal and Sergio Garcia, who are all past winners of this event.
“I just tried to keep hitting the fairways and finding the greens and eventually the putts were going to go in. The energy generated by the crowd means a lot, I just have to try and make some birdies on the front nine.”
Im, Hebert, Quesne, Fisher, Fox and Bradley Dredge are among those well placed to land one of three Open places on offer for players who finish in the top 10 and have not already qualified for Royal Birkdale.
Three-time major champion Padraig Harrington is best placed of the Irish contingent after Saturday’s action, while 2012 winner Jamie Donaldson was forced to pull out of the final two rounds with a pulled muscle in his back.
The tournament forms part of the prestigious new Rolex Series of events, boasting a prize fund of £5.4m, with £585,000 for the winner.
Rory McIlroy is set to miss the cut at the Irish Open after finishing one over par after two rounds at Portstewart.
The defending champion shot a one-over 73 to lie 14 shots behind clubhouse leaders Daniel Im and Benjamin Hebert and four short of the projected cut.
McIlroy’s playing partner Jon Rahm is one off the lead on 12 under, with New Zealand’s Ryan Fox 11 under after a 66.
This will be the fourth time in five years that tournament host McIlroy has missed the cut at his home tournament.
The world number four shot a disappointing level-par round in benign conditions on Thursday and needed a bright start to Friday’s second round to reignite his hopes of making the last two days.
A bogey at his first hole of the day, the par-three 10th, saw McIlroy immediately drop a shot, before he posted three birdies and a second bogey on the remainder of his opening nine.
The Northern Irishman picked up a shot at the fourth hole but a bogey at the sixth and a double bogey at the eighth appeared to seal his fate.
“I felt like I was battling well, two under through 13, and with another par five coming up, and to bogey the sixth took the wind out of my sails,” said McIlroy, who showed his frustration by slamming his driver to the ground after a poor drive at the 16th.
“My short game, in general, it’s just silly mistakes,” he said. “I’m just not being very efficient with my scoring and that’s why I’m making it difficult for myself. Just need to tidy up the short game a little bit; I feel like the long game is there.”
McIlroy will compete in next week’s Scottish Open before heading down to Royal Birkdale for The Open Championship.
“Obviously, I might have a few commitments here this weekend, but I need to practice,” he said. “I need to get sharp and get ready for next week and ultimately for The Open in a couple week’s time.”
Im and Hebert continue to set pace
First-round leaders, American Im and Hebert, from France, both followed up the impressive form they showed on day one by posting rounds of five-under-par 67 on Friday, the same score as Spaniard Rahm.
Fox, the winner of last year’s Northern Ireland Open at Galgorm Castle, is well-placed to challenge, along with Japanese pair Hideki Matsuyama and Hideto Tanihara, who are both nine under.
Tanihara recorded the lowest score of the second round so far with a 65.
Ireland’s Paul Dunne, former champion Soren Kjeldsen and Italy’s Fabrizio Zanotti are in the clubhouse on eight under.
This year’s Open Championship winner will be paid in US dollars rather than sterling, the organiser has said.
A fall in the value of the pound caused the Royal and Ancient Golf Club to consider the change.
On Wednesday, chief executive Martin Slumbers said the move was because the US dollar is the “most widely adopted currency for prize money in golf”.
The 2017 event begins on 20 July and the winner will pick up $1.85m (£1.4m) from a prize pool of $10.25m (£7.9m).
Royal Birkdale will host the championship for a 10th time, and the first since Padraig Harrington lifted the Claret Jug in 2008.
In February, the R&A told BBC Sport that the fall in sterling’s value, which followed the vote to leave the European Union in June 2016, had made a “significant impact” in driving the proposal to pay Open prize money in American currency.
However, although the pound’s value dropped after the Brexit vote, it has strengthened against the dollar since 1 January. A pound bought $1.29191 on 4 July, compared with $1.23458 on the first day of 2017.
That means that if a British player wins the event and converts his winnings back into sterling, it will actually be worth around £60,000 less than it would have at the turn of the year.
Ian Poulter, the 2008 Open Championship runner-up, came through final qualifying to reach this year’s tournament at Royal Birkdale.
The Englishman, ranked 83rd in the world, tied for second at his home club Woburn to qualify alongside Toby Tree and winner Shiv Kapur.
“Going back to Birkdale after what happened in 2008 is special,” said 41-year-old Poulter.
The Open will take place from 20-23 July.
Ryder Cup veteran Poulter was in danger of losing his PGA Tour card this year because he failed to earn the required points or prize money in the 10 events covered by his medical exemption following a foot injury.
However, a rule change allowed him to retain it for the remainder of the season.
Tournament host Rory McIlroy will play with world number two Hideki Matsuyama and Spaniard Jon Rahm in the first two rounds of this week’s Irish Open.
Japan’s Matsuyama leapfrogged McIlroy in the rankings after finishing in a share of second place at the US Open while Rahm is the world number 11.
The trio, who will start at 13:20 BST on Thursday, are the highest-ranked players in the Portstewart field.
McIlroy is ranked fourth after Jordan Spieth’s recent move up to third spot.
Matsuyama, the highest-placed Japanese golfer in the history of the world rankings, is making his debut in the £5.4m event in his first ever journey to Ireland.
The Japanese player has won four times on the PGA Tour including his successful defence of the Phoenix Open title this year.
Matsuyama’s remarkable conclusion to 2016
Matsuyama’s Japan Open triumph last autumn started a remarkable run of four wins in five starts which included the World Golf Championship HSBC Champions event in Shanghai and the Hero World Challenge in the Bahamas.
“When you look at what he has achieved, not just last year and already this year, but over the past few years it is impressive how he goes about his business,” said McIlroy.
“He is a very hard worker and anytime you are on the practice range he always seems to always be there and it is the same scenario when you are on the practice putting green.
“I heard he was interested in playing some links golf ahead of the Open, so we got in touch with his management team saying that would love to have him compete at Portstewart and we would do anything to help in getting him to the tournament.”
Last year’s Masters champion Danny Willett will be in the next three ball off the first tee on Thursday at 13:30 with fellow Englishmen Matthew Fitzpatrick and Ian Poulter.
World number 22 Tyrrell Hatton will start 10 minutes before McIlroy alongside Lee Westwood and emerging Irish star Paul Dunne.
The 2011 Open champion, Darren Clarke, is also among the afternoon starters after being paired with 2015 Irish Open winner Soren Kjeldsen and England’s Andrew ‘Beef’ Johnston.
Graeme McDowell has a morning tee time as he tees off from the 10th at 08:20 with Olympic champion Justin Rose and Sunday’s French Open winner Tommy Fleetwood.
Padraig Harrington will start 10 minutes later alongside another veteran, Miguel Angel Jimenez, and European Ryder Cup player Andy Sullivan.
Jamie Donaldson, the winner at Royal Portrush in 2012, will play alongside another previous Irish Open champion Mikko Ilonen while Offaly man Shane Lowry will have European Ryder Cup players Rafael Cabrera-Bello and Thomas Pieters for company over the opening two rounds.
The 1990 Irish Open champion, Jose-Maria Olazabal, will be partnered by recent BMW International Open winner Andres Romero and American Peter Uihlein.
Last year’s BMW PGA Championship Chris Wood has pulled out of this week’s event because of a wrist injury but hopes to play in next week’s Scottish Open.
THURSDAY’S DUBAI DUTY FREE IRISH OPEN TEE TIMES
Starting on the first hole
(all times BST)
07:30 – Raphael Jacquelin (Fra), David Howell (Eng), Stephen Gallacher (Sco)
07:40 – Matthew Southgate (Eng), Nathan Kimsey (Eng), Robert Rock (Eng)