The Open can be a long, tiring old slog. Even this correspondent needed a breather just there, halfway through typing the word slog. By his own, weary admission Michael Stewart felt “knackered” after day three here at Hoylake but he goes into the final round of this dream debut in golf’s oldest Major with plenty to play for.

The 33-year-old cemented his place in the upper reaches of the leaderboard with a spirited level-par 71 which kept him on a one-under aggregate. If he finishes tonight where he currently sits – just outside the top 20 – he could walk away with a six-figure cheque. Not bad for a golfer whose biggest prize in a 12-year professional career is £12,000.

There is also another target to aim for. It may be a big ask but pinching a top-10 finish would earn him an exemption to next year’s Open at Royal Troon. And that is his home town.

Whatever happens, though, Stewart will have memories that will stick in his mind as if they have been seared on with a branding iron.

“I would love to play again,” said the Ayrshireman. “The experience has been better than I could ever have imagined. I was saying to my caddie that we’re used to the Challenge Tour where you have four or five guys and a dog that come out to watch.”

The big occasion has suited Stewart to a tee. It has been an eye-opener too.

“Rory McIlroy came out of the gym as I was going in and I thought, ‘that’s Rory McIlroy’,” he said. “Jon Rahm was walking out as well. It’s cool to be playing in the same event as them. Rory was playing in the match behind me. I looked round and saw how far he hit his drive on the first. I thought, ‘I’d better get back in the gym’.”

Stewart admitted he struggled with his ball-striking on day three but there was nothing wrong with his putter. He holed a 44-footer for par on the first, a 30-footer for birdie on the third and a 25-footer for another birdie on the 16th. The total distance of his putts for the round were over 140-feet.

“I scrambled like a madman today,” said Stewart, whose birdie putt on the last teetered on the edge of the hole. “When you don’t quite have it you feel like it’s more of a grind and you’re mentally more tired. But, I’m delighted where I am.”

Richie Ramsay’s hopes of hauling himself up the order were scuppered by a triple-bogey seven on the fourth when he got a in a guddle in a gorse bush. Apart from that damaging
deviation, the 40-year-old put in a sturdy shift and three birdies at least salvaged a level-par 71 for a three-over tally.

“It was just a shame about the fourth,” he said. “It was a little bit self-inflicted because I needed to be firmer with my decision on the shot there.

“But I’ve always been pretty resilient. I like the fact that I fought myself back, but I’m kind of tired of digging myself out of a foxhole.”

A week on from his agonising near miss at the Genesis Scottish Open, Robert MacIntyre hit the wall yesterday. A 73, which started with two bogeys in the worst of the morning rain, left him on a five-over aggregate and saw him slither backwards. After the emotional roller-coaster of the last few days, the 26-year-old from Oban is ready for some rest and recuper-ation following a prolonged stint on the road.

“This is my fifth week in a row so I’m ready for a break,” he said with a deflated sigh “My attitude has been unbelievable for the last five weeks and today it was poor. But you have days like this.

“With the way the emotions were last week, it’s hard to keep mot-ivated. But it’s The Open Championship and I’m just disappointed in the way that I’ve played.”

Once he gets done and dusted today, he will seek respite in his tried and tested mode of escapism before resuming hostilities on the tour.

“I’ll just put the clubs away and get the shinty stick back out,” he said.