Irish Open: Robert Rock leads by one at Lahinch after firing a sensational 60

Robert Rock looks almost bemused after knocking in a birdie putt at the 16th at Lahinch

Dubai Duty Free Irish Open third-round leaderboard
-13 R Rock (Eng); -12 R Cabrera Bello (Spa), E Pepperell (Eng); -11 Z Lombard (SA); -10 B Wiesburger (Aut), A Sullivan (Eng)
Selected others:-9 C Sharvin (NI); -8 J Rahm (Spa), G Forrest (Scot), O Wilson (Eng), P Waring (Eng); -7 R Dawson (Ire); -6 L Westwood (Eng), M Kaymer (Ger); -5 R Knox (Scot); -4 T Fleetwood (Eng); -2 I Poulter (Eng), S Lowry (Ire); -1 P Harrington (Ire), S Power (Ire), M Wallace (Eng)
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England’s Robert Rock hit a 10-under-par 60 to storm into the lead in the Irish Open at Lahinch.

The 42-year-old finished with six straight birdies to bring up his total to 11 as he moved to 13 under par.

Rock’s round puts him one ahead of compatriot Eddie Pepperell and Spain’s Rafa Cabrera Bello, who matched Padraig Harrington’s opening 63.

Rock, beaten in an Irish Open play-off by Shane Lowry in 2009, went close to a 59 as his eagle putt on 18 just missed.

The only 59 on the European Tour was carded by Rock’s compatriot Oliver Fisher at last year’s Portugal Masters.

Overnight leader Zander Lombard battled back from a four-putt double bogey at the fourth to card a 68, which put him two off the pace with England’s Andy Sullivan and Austrian Bernd Wiesberger a further stroke back.

Northern Ireland’s Challenge Tour player Cormac Sharvin maintained his challenge – and kept alive his hopes of clinching one of the three Open Championship qualifying spots on offer – as his 66 left him four behind Rock.

As overnight rain made the Lahinch links more receptive, the course played easier than the opening two days with 2017 winner Jon Rahm moving to within five of the lead after a 64 which was matched by Irishman Robin Dawson, who improved to seven under.

Rock’s last victory in 2012

Rock has not won on the European Tour since the Abu Dhabi Championship in 2012 and went into his week’s event 147th in the Race to Dubai standings and 333rd in the world rankings.

The Staffordshire man, also seeking an Open place at Royal Portrush, revealed he only realised a 59 could be on as he was approaching his ball on the 18th fairway to play his second shot.

“I wasn’t really adding it up,” Rock told Sky Sports.

“It’s disappointing not to do it but 60 is a good score. I’ve played rubbish this year.”

Jon Rahm moved into the top 10 at Lahinch after firing a 64 on Saturday<!–

After birdies at the first and third, Rock bogeyed the fourth before picking up further shots to go to the turn in 31.

There was little suggestion Harrington’s existing course record from Thursday was under threat as Rock followed a birdie at the 10th with two pars but the two-time European Tour winner then produced his astonishing finish which included holing a 25-yard putt at the 17th.

“That finish was a bit much,” admitted Rock, who also has become a renowned swing coach in recent years with English star Matt Wallace among those he is guiding.

In addition to having a chance of a first European Tour win in seven years, Rock’s round on Saturday leaves him well placed to clinch one of the three Open Championship qualification spots.

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