Viktor Hovland made a lovely gesture to Rory McIlroy after his sublime eagle 4 weeks ago

Viktor Hovland made a lovely gesture to Rory McIlroy after his sublime eagle

The reactions of the Dustin Johnson, Scottie Scheffler and the whole 11th tee gallery said it all.

Viktor Hovland may be doing all he can to spoil the major dreams of his Ryder Cup 'Team Europe' buddy, but he had to pay dues to Rory McIlroy here.

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Heading into the third round of The Open Championship, at St Andrew's Old Course, McIlroy and Hovland were in pursuit of overnight leader Cameron Smith, who was three clear.

While Hovland started off like a runaway freight train, McIlroy was more slow and steady. That is, until they reached the 9th.

Both players were left with chips onto the greeen, but McIlroy was down in a greenside bunker. The hope would have been to chip the ball close to give him a look at a possible birdie. The shot was so good, though, that it was never going anywhere but straight in. The reaction from McIlroy and the crowd near the green was electric.

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Even players on the nearby tee-box - Scottie Scheffler and Dustin Johnson - could only smile at the sheer audacity of the shot.

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Viktor Hovland pays his dues

That chip-in eagle was enough to vault Rory McIlroy into the lead, level with his playing partner, Viktor Hovland.

And although both men were dicing with each other to get into the best position to contest The Claret Jug, on Sunday, there was clear respect there.

The 24-year-old made sure to catch-up with McIlroy before they both teed off, at the 1oth, and give him a congratulatory fist-bump.

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"What a wild two on that hole," Hovland later said. "I was glad I was able to make mine for birdie. But when things like that happen, you just kind of have to give each other a fist bump and say, 'Good shot'."

McIlroy added another birdie after that and with Cam Toung and Cameron Smith struggling to get much momentum, the four-time major winner is set to be paired with Hovland again for the final round.

It should be edge-of-the-seat viewing.

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