Ireland's Shane Lowry reacts after getting a birdie on the 4th green during the final round of the British Open. Photo: Peter Morrison/AP Photo

LONDON  Leader Shane Lowry made a nervy start to his final round at the Open Championship Sunday as he bogeyed the first hole at Royal Portrush.

The Irishman, whose course-record 8-under-par 63 left him 16-under-par overnight, found the rough off the tee, the bunker with his second but made a good five-foot putt to make a bogey five.

With Tommy Fleetwood making par at the first, Lowry's lead dropped to three, while Lee Westwood and Justin Rose were next best at 9-under-par early in their rounds.

Chasing his first major win, Lowry was given a huge ovation at the Northern Ireland course as he banged his first tee shot but it went left into the heavy rough.

Though he found a decent lie, his approach caught the grass above the greenside bunker and rolled back into the sand.

His third was short and his first putt left him a testing five-footer but he rolled it in well to limit the damage.

Lowry held a four-shot lead in the US Open in 2016, only to lose it as Dustin Johnson won his first major.

With a gusting wind blowing hard and rain predicted later in the day, tee times were brought forward by an hour.

American Justin Thomas was one of the early players to make a move, picking up four shots in his first eight holes to be 8-under-par for the tournament.

Italian Francesco Molinari finished his year as Open champion with a fine 5-under-par 66 to be 3-under-par for the tournament.

dpa