Had Shane Lowry wished for a few moments to reflect on what he was doing, the opportunity came in the small player access tunnel that runs under a sand dune between the 10th green and the 11th tee.
Portrush’s new favourite Irishman had just rolled in a 20-foot birdie putt to reach 10 under par for the Open and minus six for the day’s play.
Waiting in the tunnel as the group in front teed off, Lowry sat alone, away from the drizzle that had started to roll in from the sea and out of the glare of the cameras that were following his every move across these Dunluce Links.
Shane Lowry has become the Irishman to follow as he leads into the weekend at The Open
‘There are people out here who wanna see ya,’ came a shout.
Lowry just smiled that lazy smile and took a swig from his water bottle. To his left sat Phil Mickelson, snacking from a bag of nuts and looking as though a flight home to California could not come soon enough.
In front of him stood the South African Branden Grace, who said: ‘So, you are from a different part or Ireland, right?’
‘Yeah, further down,’ replied Lowry. ‘It’s very different to here.’
Lowry is from south of the border but this weekend he will belong to everyone as Ireland pulls for a home winner. The banner draped over the balcony of a house behind the fourth tee has so far rotated between support for Graeme McDowell, Rory McIlroy and Darren Clarke. Now there is another name to ink.
After an opening 67, Lowry once again constructed the foundations of another progressive day on the front nine. Cheered wildly on to the first, he swept his drive away with confidence and birdies followed on four of the first five holes.
When he dropped a seven iron over the top of the pin on the eighth, only two and a half feet stood between the 32-year-old and glorious isolation at the top of the leaderboard.
Down to his right it