Rickie Fowler had seven birdies in 12 holes during the third round of the British Open on Saturday to pull into a tie atop the leaderboard with wire-to-wire leader Rory McIlroy before a disastrous finish left the American where he began the day, six shots off the lead in second place.
As Fowler carded bogeys at No. 14 and No. 16, McIlroy followed him with a birdie and eagle on those holes to take a commanding five-shot lead that he'd extend to six with an eagle on No. 18. Fowler birdied the 18th.
Fowler, who at 25 is the same age as McIlroy, shot to stardom as an All-American golfer from Murrieta Valley High at the same time his rival from Northern Ireland climbed to the top of the junior ranks. Now Fowler has to try to make up six shots again when paired with McIlroy in the final group Sunday.
"If I can go out and learn from what I did at the U.S. Open, try and get off to a bit of a better start, maybe I'm able to put a bit of pressure on Rory," Fowler told reporters after his third-round 68. "Maybe we can get into a fun little match come the back nine."
Fowler, who is the only player with top-five finishes this year in the Masters and U.S. Open, isn't fazed by the task at hand.
"It doesn't feel like a big stage," said Fowler, who has not won a major although he tied for second last month at the U.S. Open. "It feels like I'm supposed to be here."
McIlroy, who won the 2011 U.S. Open and 2012 PGA Championship, understands the pressure of playing in the final group. Fowler was in the final group at the U.S. Open last month with eventual winner Martin Kaymer and struggled to a two-over 72.
"We'll try and treat it like any other day, even though it isn't," McIlroy said.