Australian Marc Leishman has flirted with the major championship scoring record to rocket up the British Open leaderboard with a spectacular eight-under-par 64 on moving day at St Andrews.
Leishman’s sublime third round – which featured eight birdies in a 12-hole blitz – catapulted the Victorian to nine under for the championship, leaving him just one behind American leader Dustin Johnson.
The world No.61 has a history of going low at the Open.
He closed with a sizzling 65 to finish equal fifth with Adam Scott at Royal Liverpool last year.
Leishman’s stunning effort, which vaulted the 31-year-old two shots clear of Scott and Jason Day as the leading Australian at St Andrews, left him in equal second spot with Englishman Danny Willett.
His unblemished round was just one shy of the best-ever effort in 155 years of Open championships, a record jointly held by eight players including countryman Greg Norman, who fired a 63 when he lifted the Claret Jug for the first time at Turnberry in 1986.
Leishman lipped out for birdie at the 17th road hole after narrowly missing another putt on the 16th.
Had they dropped, Leishman would have equalled the lowest round in major golf history.
Leishman’s fireworks lit up a cold and gloomy Sunday at the Old Course and came just three months after he sat out the Masters to be with wife Audrey as she fought for her life in a Virginia Beach hospital.
Battling toxic shock syndrome, Leishman’s wife was given less than five per cent chance of surviving.
But survive she did, with the reality check also providing Leishman with a fresh perspective on life – and golf.
It showed on Sunday as the one-time US PGA Tour winner led an exciting Australian charge at the home of golf.
Matt Jones picked up three shots in his first five holes to climb to six under for the tournament.
Geoff Ogilvy, Steven Bowditch, Marcus Fraser and Greg Chalmers were all at five under either early in their third rounds or before teeing off, giving Australia eight players in the top 20.