HOYLAKE, England - With a pack of British Open challengers closing in, Rory McIlroy delivered two spectacular blows that may have left his rivals fighting for second.
As an Australian contingent headed by world No.1 Adam Scott was left behind, McIlroy made eagles on two of the last three holes at a rain-swept Royal Liverpool Golf Club on Saturday to take six-stroke lead heading into the final round.
Looking to add a third major to his collection and a first on British soil, McIlroy started the day with a four-stroke buffer.
But by the time he reached the 12th hole that had vanished with rising American Rickie Fowler pulling level and a star-studded leaderboard bunching up.
However in what looked like a champion's response, McIlroy rolled in a 35-foot birdie at the 14th and an eagle at the 16th.
Fowler bogeyed both holes and, when McIlroy made another eagle, at the 18th he pushed his score to 16-under 200 to seize the largest 54-hole Open lead since Tiger Woods was six strokes ahead at St Andrews in 2000.
No one has ever blown such a big advantage on the final day of golf's oldest major championship.
"I felt Rickie close to me," McIlroy said.
"I was able to turn it on when I needed to."
The burst pushed McIlroy another step closer to the career grand slam at the tender age of 25.
He captured the 2011 US Open and the 2012 PGA Championship in eight-shot runways and this is looking like another blowout.
"Obviously, it would be nice going to Augusta next year trying to complete a grand slam," McIlroy said.
"I've got a lot to play for tomorrow. It's a huge day for me.
"I just need to go out there tomorrow and play one more solid round and hopefully that's enough."
Fowler, though, insisted he was still in with a realistic chance.
"There is a fine line, so much can happen so quickly," he said.
Fowler matched McIlroy's four-under 68 to sit outright second with Spaniard Sergio Garcia (69) and American Dustin Johnson (71) a further shot back.