SOUTHPORT, ENGLAND | Jordan Spieth hated his second at the 18th but loved his third, a curling 20-footer which dropped for a birdie and the 65 which left him on 11-under-par 199 and three clear of Matt Kuchar going into the final round of the 146th Open at Royal Birkdale.
The top of the leaderboard through 54 holes is a familiar place for the 23-year-old Spieth; he was there when he won both The Masters and US Open in 2015.
Open Championship 3rd Round
Austin Connelly and Brooks Koepka are still in touch on 5-under 205, as are Hideki Matsuyama and Branden Grace on 4-under 206. Matsuyama, it has to be remembered, is No 2 in the world at the moment, while Grace is the player who achieved the signal feat of returning a third-round 62, the lowest round in major championship history. The South African knows how difficult it can be to follow an outrageously low round but he is comfortable with the thought that he should be in the same “chasing” mode when he tees up for the final round.
Spieth used the word “phenomenal” to sum up how things had gone for him today: “It was pretty stress-free and to be going into the last round with the lead in a major is about as much as I can ask for.”
He knew he had been lucky when his second to the 18th swirled back onto the green rather than into the pot bunker which was lying in wait but, having had that bit of luck, he was patently delighted to have made the most of it. Throughout the afternoon he had played the kind of steady, smart golf which had Jim “Bones” Mackay, Phil Mickelson’s ex-caddie, talking on TV of his remarkable golfing IQ.
Kuchar, who had looked as if he would emerge the better from the 18th when he hit his second to within 8 feet, ended up with a par to Spieth’s birdie but was not about to complain about a 66: “Both of us pushed each other and let’s hope there is more of that tomorrow.”
— The Open (@TheOpen) July 22, 2017
The 20-year-old Connelly, if he were to succeed, would make for a rare winner in that he made his way through qualifying. This dual citizen of Canada and the US, who is currently learning his trade in Europe, had scores of 68 and 73 to finish in a share of third place in the qualifier at Royal Cinque Ports. That done, his next move was to come out top in the ensuing play-off to win what is his first Open Championship slot.