UNITED STATES (AFP) - Shane Lowry is expecting a few "twists in the tale" at Oakmont on Sunday (June 19) as he tries to become the first player from the Republic of Ireland to win the US Open.
The burly 29-year-old world number 41 from County Offaly set the stage for what would be a historic win for his country by birdieing two of the four holes he had left to play in his third round on Sunday morning.
That put him on seven-under, four clear of Americans Dustin Johnson and Andrew Landry, with veteran Englishman Lee Westwood and American Daniel Summerhays a further shot back.
Only six players were under par on the tough Oakmont course and none of those had won a major before.
Lowry believes he can make that step to major glory and become just the second player from the Republic of Ireland to win a major title after Padraig Harrington, who has three to his name.
Still, he expects there to be some fun and games when the 67 players who made the cut play the final round.
"It's going to be tough. I mean, let's be honest, I've already visualized myself winning. Even out walking around the course this morning, when you get a few moments to yourself, you do think about that," he said after completing a superb 65.
"I've just got to go out and play my own game. No matter what happens, I just have to get up and play the next shot.
"I'm sure there are going to be little twists in the tale this afternoon, I will be expecting that, and we will just have to see how it goes." Lowry will go out in the final pairing with Landry, a sectional qualifier ranked 624th in the world, who no-one, apart from himself, thought would be in such an elevated position on Sunday.
Playing in what is his first major and having missed six cuts in the 11 US Tour events he had played this year, the 28-year-old Texan said that he was determined to not let the occasion get to him.
"No change. No change. I'm still here. Just same exact person. Same exact beliefs, and I'm just sticking to my game plan. That's all I can say," he said.
In the penultimate pairing, Johnson and Westwood form a duo that have both come close to winning a major tournament on multiple occasions, but who have both been unable nail it down.
Johnson, who three-putted the 72nd hole at last year's US Open to hand the win to Jordan Spieth, refuses to be drawn into any debate over his near misses at the majors and especially last year's last green horror show.
"I know I'm four back, but with this golf course, that can change in a hurry. I'm going to have to play a good, solid round of golf, though. A lot of fairways, a lot of greens." Westwood, a former world number one who has top three finishes in all four of the majors, said that staying patient was the key.
"Patience is always a key thing in any major championship. It's an extreme test, and it's an extreme mental test. The US Open is the toughest one of the lot. You can't let things frustrate you too easily." All three then of Lowry's closest pursuers believe they can reel him in, but the odds favour the Irishman.
Fifty-one times in 115 previous US Opens, the third-round leader/co-leader has gone on to win the crown.