Players make the most of early starts as conditions set to deteriorate at The Open

Spectators umbrella turns inside out in the stands during day four of The Open Championship 2019 at Royal Portrush Golf Club.  Niall Carson/PA Wire
Spectators umbrella turns inside out in the stands during day four of The Open Championship 2019 at Royal Portrush Golf Club. Niall Carson/PA Wire
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Early starters on the final day of The Open at Royal Portrush made the most of the best of the weather as conditions began to turn a full three hours before the leaders teed off.

There were birdies to be had but even those taking advantage could only get to three under for their rounds at best and with heavier rain and wind gusting up to 35mph forecasted, scores were only likely to get higher.

Ireland's Shane Lowry holds a four-stroke lead over Tommy Fleetwood as he looks to win his first major and he may well need every shot if things deteriorate as predicted.

First man out Ashton Turner carded a 68 to show what was possible but he benefited from the calmest and driest conditions.

Of those out on the course former Open champion Stewart Cink and Dutchman Joost Luiten had three birdies in their first seven holes to get to three under for the tournament.

Thailand's Kiradech Aphibarnrat was also three under for his round, although that was only good enough to get him back to two over.

England's Paul Casey enjoyed a good start to his 42nd birthday with two early birdies to return to level par.

It was a long way behind Lowry, on 16 under, but only four outside the top 20 with that likely to improve if the weather arrives as predicted.

Strong winds and rain meant the chances for the players hoping to catch Lowry - led by Fleetwood at 12 under with four-time major winner and world number one Brooks Koepka and Justin Rose (both nine under) lurking - were reduced unless the top two made a mess of the start to their rounds.