The raindrops were still plummeting when Harman stepped up to the tee. With his back to the nearby claret jug — his only left-handed skill is golf — he steadied himself, took one glance after another down the fairway and swung. He would make par on the hole, avoiding a repeat of Saturday’s bogey. But he barely missed a par putt at No. 2, where even a police officer had turned away from the crowd to watch, to shrivel his lead. Young failed to convert a 14-putt birdie putt that would have narrowed it by another stroke.
Seven groups ahead, though, McIlroy was rising. He had begun the day at three under. After five holes on Sunday, he was at six under and suddenly tied for second. Rahm was making pars, and Young, paired with Harman, had already bogeyed the first. By the time Harman’s ball was rolling across the third green, there were five players — McIlroy, Rahm, Young, Tommy Fleetwood and Sepp Straka — tied for second. But Harman’s margin remained as much as it was at the start.
Other potential rivals were nowhere near, not after a tournament whose cut had sapped the leaderboard of much of its prospective star power. Most of those who remained did not pose severe threats. Scottie Scheffler, the world’s top-ranked player, finished the Open at even par. Wyndham Clark, the victor at last month’s U.S. Open, left Hoylake at one over, as did Cameron Smith, last year’s British Open winner. Brooks Koepka, who won the P.G.A. Championship and was the runner-up at the Masters, was eight over.
At the fifth hole, a par-5 that had been the week’s easiest test, Harman’s tee shot flew 249 yards and crashed into bushes, positioning him just more than halfway to the pin.
That pin was where Rahm, the reigning Masters champion, began to make headway, tapping his ball for his first Sunday birdie. Once Harman made it to the green, an eventual 12-foot try for par failed, and when the fifth hole closed for the tournament, Harman’s lead was down to three strokes.