A procession to a coronation? Let us not get ahead of ourselves. Brian Harman certainly won’t but the American took another major step towards being crowned Open champion here at Hoylake.

With a rotten forecast from the Met Office for Saturday’s play, you half expected the destination of the Claret Jug to be decided by the Duckworth Lewis method.

Having led by five shots at halfway, Harman, a Ricky Ponting lookalike, may have been happy to declare. As it turned out, the weather was not too bad and Mother Nature could not rain on the American’s parade.

In the company of local favourite Tommy Fleetwood – Harman did say there were some “unrepeatable” bellows from the partisan crowd – the 36-year-old from Georgia put in a display of poise, patience and tremendous putting. He has not missed a putt inside 10 feet this week.

Harman’s two-under 69, for a 12-under aggregate, maintained his mighty lead as he finished five clear of Cameron Young. It is the biggest 54-hole advantage in The Open since Rory McIlroy carried a six-stroke lead into the final round at Hoylake in 2014.

Harman has been christened the butcher of Hoylake due to his fondness for hunting and the subsequent devouring of his bounty. He continues to slay his rivals here.

Jon Rahm tried his best to give Harman the heebie-jeebies. The Masters champion was so far behind the leader at halfway – 12 shots to be precise – he just about needed snookers but a thrilling 63, the lowest round in a Hoylake Open, saw the Spaniard hurtle up to third on a six-under.

As he finished on the 18th, Harman was preparing to get going on the first tee. Rahm’s raid would have had Harman anxiously peering over his shoulder like someone who had just heard a tin can mysteriously rattle in a dark alley.

A bogey on the first from the leader was hardly a stomach-settler and another leaked shot on four saw his advantage snipped to two. That was as close as he would allow anyone to get, though.

“It would have been really easy to let the wheels start spinning and let it get out of control,” he said of that jittery start. “But I was really proud of the way that I hung in there.”

A birdie at five stopped the wheels shoogling while a sturdy par save on seven was a key moment in his round.

“I had sort of righted the ship after that start,” said Harman, who also holed a crucial par putt on the last. “I hit a loose shot off the seventh tee but was able to make par which kept me from going backwards again.”

Harman, a two-time winner on the PGA Tour, had led the US Open going into the final round in 2017 but had to settle for second. Now he has the chance to follow Bob Charles and Phil Mickelson as left-handed Open champions.

“I’ve thought about winning Majors for my entire life,” he said of this tantalising prospect. “But I just have to stay in the moment.”

The rain had been pelting down all night and it continued as the early starters got cracking. There were windows when it faired up, though, and it was Rahm who got himself home and dry with the
kind of fearsome charge that could have featured a fixed bayonet as
he birdied seven of his last
10 holes.

The 28-year-old ignited his offensive with a birdie putt of some 22 feet on the ninth before reeling off a trio of birdies from the 10th. Another gain at 15 was followed by a raking birdie putt of over 30 feet at 16 before he finished with a flourish with a final birdie on the last to put the tin lid on a tremendous thrust.

All he could do now was retire to his rented pad, put the feet up and watch affairs unravel on the tele.

“That’s the best round I’ve played on a links course ever,” beamed Rahm.

“The job today was to come out and give myself the best opportunity I could. Whenever you get a birdie, you’re just thinking about getting one more. That’s all you can do.”

Rahm’s late, great compatriot, Seve Ballesteros, claimed three Claret Jugs during his pomp but never posted a 63 in a Major championship.

“I’d rather win three times and never shoot 63,” said Rahm with a smile.

It is Young that Harman will be paired with today in the final group. The American, who eagled the 18th at St Andrews in a stunning 64 last year to grab second, gave himself a chance again with a fine 66.

“With the lead he [Harman] has right now, it’s not necessarily going to be up to me tomorrow,” said Young as he issued a gentle rallying cry to those behind.

Viktor Hovland, Antoine Rozner, Sepp Straka and former world No.1 Jason Day are all on five-under. That posse also includes Fleetwood, whose “frustrating” day ended with a 71 and left him seven behind.

McIlroy looked like he too would embark on a Rahm-like assault after he birdied three of his first five holes. There was frustration with the putter, though, and he finished with a 69 for three-under.

There are eight different nationalities in the top 10. A true Open, then. But unflappable Harman will be keen to shut the door on those playing catch up.