By Tony Jimenez
HOYLAKE England (Reuters) - Rickie Fowler was left rueing two wayward late drives and one errant approach shot after allowing Rory McIlroy to sprint into a six-shot lead in the third round of the 143rd British Open on Sunday.
The 25-year-old American was in majestic form early on and a seven-birdie flurry helped him draw level with overnight pacesetter McIlroy by the 12th hole.
Fowler's form then started to unravel as he bogeyed the 14th and 16th holes with one drive into the rough and another that found a bunker.
He compounded those errors with a third bogey in quick succession at the 17th where he again found the rough with one of the shortest clubs in the bag, a sand wedge.
"I had two tee shots that slipped away from me on the back nine and one approach shot," Fowler told reporters after a four-under 68 gave him a 10-under total of 206.
"Bad swings happen and it's unfortunate that I strung a few of those together.
"I was playing very solidly and they cost me three shots coming in. He's definitely in control of the golf tournament now."
Fowler and McIlroy, who both live in Florida and count one another as friends as well as neighbors, will be in the final group in Sunday's last round at Royal Liverpool and the American is thrilled at the prospect.
"We first played against each other as amateurs at the Walker Cup in 2007 so I'm looking forward to it," he said.
"We are good buddies but at the same time we both want to beat up on each other as bad as possible. We'll have fun throwing shots back and forth."
Fowler's golf mentor is five-times major champion and 2013 Open winner Phil Mickelson and he said he was always striving to impress the 44-year-old American.
"I've learned a lot from Phil," added the youngster who shared fifth place at the U.S. Masters in April and tied for second in last month's U.S. Open.
"He's been like a dad out here for me. I'm sure he doesn't like hearing that but he knows he's a lot older than me.
"It's a lot of fun being around him, seeing how he operates on the golf course, how he treats his fans. He's very well respected," said Fowler.
"I want to try and be like him in a lot of those ways. I've definitely learned the most from Phil."
(Editing by Tony Goodson)