SOUTHPORT, ENGLAND | In case what Jordan Spieth did over the first 53 holes of the Open Championship hadn’t sufficiently made the point of who is in charge at Royal Birkdale, he hammered it home a final time with a 20-foot birdie putt on the 18th hole early Saturday evening.
With a three-stroke lead over Matt Kuchar and at least a six-stroke cushion over everyone else, Spieth is 18 holes away from becoming the youngest player to win three legs of the career grand slam.
The question is whether anyone can catch him on Sunday.
Kuchar, 39, has never won a major championship. Twenty-year-old Austin Connelly is shockingly new to the grand stage. Brooks Koepka won the U.S. Open last month but he starts the final round six strokes behind Spieth.
And Spieth has a sense of what major championship Sundays can bring, having won twice but also having lost chances to win, most recently at the 2016 Masters when he took a five-stroke lead to the back nine on Sunday and didn’t win.
“I’m in a position where it will be very advantageous everything I’ve gone through, the good, the bad and everything in the middle,” Spieth said. “I understand how leads can be squandered and how they can be built on.”
Spieth has put together rounds of 65-69-65 and shows no signs of retreating. That means someone likely will have to chase him down. Kuchar is the closest to the leader but he’s still spotting Spieth three strokes.
What’s Kuchar’s plan?
“Continue with good golf,” he said. “Again, I’ll be playing with him but not focused on him. My goal is to go out and play Royal Birkdale. I’ll know exactly where we stand but I don’t know how much that ever helps you.”
Before they teed off together Saturday, Spieth and Kuchar set a goal of being in the final pairing together Sunday, Spieth said.
As they approached the 18th green Saturday afternoon, knowing they will play together again in the final round, Kuchar and Spieth took a moment to look around.
“Pretty cool,” Kuchar said.
“Walking up the 18th, the last group Saturday of a British Open, having the stands and the people cheer, it’s completely unique. It’s completely different than any tournament we play in the United States, and just kind of soaked it in for a second, (and) said, ‘This is pretty cool to be here walking up the last hole of a British Open.’ And it was just a neat moment.”