Published Saturday, 21 July 2012
McDowell celebrates a birdie putt on the 17th hole during the third round. (© Getty)
Starting the day on four under, the Co Antrim man suffered an early scare with a bogey at the second hole, but quickly recovered with a birdie at the par-4 fourth.
The front nine evened out with another dropped shot at the fifth followed by a birdie at the eighth to leave him on level par for the day at the turn.
Further birdies at 13, 14 and 17 saw the 2010 US Open champion card a three under round of 67 move into a share of second place on 7-under, alongside American Brandt Snedeker.
For the second major in succession, McDowell will start the final round in the last group after he finished second, just one shot behind champion Webb Simpson, at the US Open crown in San Francisco last month.
And he hopes he can ensure the Claret Jug remains in Northern Irish hands after Darren Clarke's victory last year.
"There's no doubt I think Darren will be an inspiration and someone that I'll think about a little bit tomorrow. Since I was a young boy I dreamed of coming down that last fairway on a Sunday afternoon, the last group in The Open Championship," he said.
"This is special for me, back-to-back major championships to be in the last group on a Sunday afternoon."
I'm not the only man that wants this thing tomorrow. All I can do is dream big, and I certainly will be dreaming big tonight.
It was not such a good afternoon though for compatriot Rory McIlroy, with the world number two struggling to find any joy on the Royal Lytham course.
The Holywood man carded a three over 73 for his third round to drop to 5-over for the tournament.
"I got off to a bad start and couldn't really do much from there," said McIlroy, who had already dropped four shots by the time his only birdie of the day came at the 16th.
Blaming a lack of consistency with his swing for his recent poor form, the 23-year-old admitted that he was finding it difficult to trust himself when it came to hitting shots.
"Whenever you're not confident in the shots that you're trying to hit then it is tough to sort of trust it.
"I was up for it this morning trying to go out there and post a good score, but after playing the front nine like I did you're just trying to shoot the best score you can.
He added: "And for me today that was only a 73."
"I'm frustrated, but that's the way it is - that's golf. You just have to get on with it and keep trying and keep practising and stay patient until it turns around.
"It was good and then all of a sudden I just started not to really trust it yesterday. It just sort of spiralled from there."
McIlroy went on to admit that the last few weeks hadn't been so great.
"Every tournament or every major that you don't play well in or you don't win is a chance missed."
Meanwhile, Dubliner Padraig Harrington remained two over after two birdies and two bogeys, including one on the last after he had driven into a bunker.
"The 70 was a steal - and 69 would have been a miracle. I was really at sixes and sevens with my game," Harrington said.
"It was a big struggle. I didn't show much trust, faith or confidence in anything out there, so it was nice that my short game saved me."
Harrington now has only a slim chance of qualifying for the Bridgestone world championship in a fortnight.