‘Ello, ‘ello, ‘ello, what’s all this then? When an intruder ambled unhindered onto the 10th tee at The Renaissance yesterday, nonchalantly took one of Rory McIlroy’s clubs from his bag and prepared to take a swing, the look of head-scratching befuddlement on the faces of all those in the vicinity was like something you’d see at a Stan Laurel appreciation night.

The gentleman in question had drifted on to the tee as quietly as the east coast haar that billowed in off the sea but he was eventually escorted off the premises by security guards.

Thankfully, McIlroy, and his playing partners, Jon Rahm and Justin Thomas, didn’t seem too perturbed by the bizarre, and somewhat concerning, occurrence.

A few hours later, McIlroy departed The Renaissance without the assistance of burly bouncers as he missed the cut with a one-under total and was heading for The Open Championship at St George’s with work to do.

As for Rahm? Well, the world No 1 issued an ominous warning to his rivals after his title tilt gathered pace with a six-under 65. “I think everything can get a little better,” declared the reigning US Open champion as he signalled his intent after moving to an 11-under halfway tally.

Rahm and his playing partners had started on that 10th tee and, following the brief security stooshie, the Spaniard wasted no time in stamping his authority on affairs. Over the course of a shimmering opening nine holes, Rahm appeared to be racing so far away you just about expected him to be halfway to St George’s by the turn. Six birdies in a 29, a haul burnished by a raking putt on the 18th, had him bounding clear of the field but his thrust was tempered somewhat with a level-par back nine.

“The first 10 holes, it was perfect golf,” added Rahm of this inherently imperfect game. “But you're always going to struggle through a couple of holes and I tried to minimise that as much as possible.”

While his barrage of birdies caught the eye, Rahm’s par-saving effort from a tricky spot in the sand on his final hole was just as important. “I would have taken six feet, but it came out inside three feet,” he said of his impressive salvage operation from the greenside bunker. “It felt more like a birdie than a par. Because I knew it was that important, I committed really hard to that shot and maybe took a bit more of a risk than I should have taken. But it worked out."

Rahm’s early, 11-under marker at the head of the leaderboard was eventually matched later in the afternoon by his good friend, Thomas Detry, whose six-birdie 65 was the Belgian’s lowest score on the European Tour since he shot a 64 at the Scottish Open last year. Welcome back. 

“I had a horrendous Saturday that time but shot seven-under on the final day and came off with a good vibe about the place,” reflected Detry, who is aiming for a maiden tour title after a quartet of second place finishes over the last year or so.

Jack Senior, who led the way overnight, was out in one of the last groups of the day and he cemented his place on that lofty perch with a four-under 67 which left him in a three-way tie for the lead.

Rahm, Detry and Senior were sitting just a stroke ahead of a chasing pack which includes the charging Lee Westwood, who gave his round the kind of shot in the arm that should have been accompanied by a blue NHS envelope.

After bogeys at 10 and 11, the 48-year-old was sliding out of contention but a wonderfully flighted 4-iron from around 245-yards on the 16th spawned a tap-in eagle and provided the catalyst for a thrilling late show.

He made another birdie on 17 then trundled in a long putt on the last in a 67 which vaulted him back into the thick of it at 10-under.

“I had to show a lot of patience out there,” said the 1998 Scottish Open champion. “I hit lots of good putts that didn’t go in and I felt like I was moving backwards. The patience was rewarded on the last couple of holes.”

Westwood was joined on a 10-under total by fellow Englishman, Matt Fitzpatrick, and South Africa’s George Coetzee, who both carded 66s.

David Law was flying the saltire in a share of seventh on eight-under.