Jordan Spieth shares the Open lead with Xander Schauffele and Kevin Kisner, while Tiger Woods is only four shots back going into the final round
Whatever transpires during the closing round of this, the 147 th Open Championship, we will always have Saturday. At 13 minutes past four the Open dynamic sharply shifted. We had been here before, several times; a long, long time ago.
Tiger Woods sat atop the leaderboard. Those who doubted that a Tiger Effect still persists, a decade on from his last major win, surely had their scepticism doused. Woods’s position clearly registered with fellow players. Galleries flocked to watch the closing stages of the 42 -year-old’s round. Social media illuminated up, including by way of commentary from golfers and professionals in others sports. At long last Woods was backing up exhilaration with performance. His problem was, Jordan Spieth seemed to take umbrage.
” There’s a couple of holes that people may be standing 15, 20 deep on each side ,” said Shaun Norris, Woods’s Saturday partner.” It’s like playing with a mythical creature. It doesn’t feel real .”
As rather sums up recent times of the Tiger, he was to wobble on the closing stretch. A bogey at the 16 th after a missed green at the par three meant he had to settle for a 66. This, however, was his best major round since 2011. It was his lowest in the Open since the second round at Hoylake 12 years ago. Woods was to prevail on Merseyside; from within touching distance of the result he has a chance to replicate that victory here. An outrageous piece of luck at the 18 th, when Woods’s ball seemed to behave contrary to gravitation by bouncing away from rather than into the Barry Burn, suggested the golfing divinities are on his side. Perhaps they feel the 14 -times major champ, an individual once consumed by personal and physical chaos, has served his penance.
” It’s certainly possible ,” said a coy Woods when asked whether he believes Scotland will witness his most iconic victory of all. His attitude remained the same when asked his opinion about the scale of such an achievement.” We’re not there yet. I know what you’re trying to say in asking, but let me try and get there first. Then ask me again .”
If one statistic easily runs against Woods- he has never won a major from outside the top five after 36 holes, having been 29 th in this one- there is the not insignificant matter of a young pretender. Spieth, regardless of poor pre-Open form, is the one competitor none of his peers imagination combating with in events such as these. A modern-day Woods, if you like. The defending champ, inspired by a wonderful eagle to start day three, signed for a 65 to share the clubhouse result at nine under. That is four ahead of Woods.
By close of play, as Spieth warned of an altogether different challenge on day four, he was joined at minus nine by Xander Schauffele and Kevin Kisner. The latter refuses to go away; he has not scored higher than 70 over three rounds. Kevin Chappell, at seven under, is next in line.
Should Spieth take the Claret Jug back to Texas, a major haul of four including a successful defence of the oldest one would entail he could be classed as one of the greatest to play video games. Spieth is merely 24.
Moving day was allowed to become fast-moving day because of calm Angus conditions. That is forecast to change on Sunday, with gusts perhaps exceeding 20 mph. Spieth is among those who will scratch their hands at the future prospects. It was sensible for a remaining Open field, which started the third round separated by merely nine shots, to take advantage of Carnoustie when it was as submissive as it is ever likely to be.
The leaderboard is brilliantly versatile. Spieth, Woods, Zach Johnson, Adam Scott, Webb Simpson, Justin Rose and Rory McIlroy are the major course-and-distance specialists; to varying extents, of course. For Kisner, Schauffele, Francesco Molinari, Chappell and Alex Noren there is the life aim of a maiden victory in one of golf’s big four. Noren’s 67, for a five-under total, was bittersweet given a bogey at the last after the Swede had clattered a stand with his approach shot.
Rose started the scoring demonstrate, his 64 matching the lowest round in a Carnoustie Open. The Englishman, who survived the cut by merely one, cannot be discounted at four under. As attention- reams of it- diverted towards the marauding Woods, Molinari posted a 65. The Italian’s aggregate is six under. Wins on both the European and PGA Tours this season, plus an uncannily accurate game from the tee, render Molinari a clear and present danger.
” It was the day to be aggressive ,” Molinari said.” There was not a lot of gust, and after the rainfall[ on Friday] the course is a little bit softer. But I played well, had quite a lot of chances that went close by or it could have been even better .”
Simpson tied Woods’s 54 -hole score courtesy of a 67. McIlroy, Johnson, Tommy Fleetwood and Matt Kuchar complete the five-under contingent.
Phil Mickelson’s 70 means he requires snookers to win the Claret Jug again from a starting Sunday position of minus one.” The game’s just hard for me right now ,” said the 2013 champ.” I don’t feel like I’m playing bad, but only it’s not coming easy .”
Woods once knew that feeling only too well. On a breathless Saturday afternoon he reminded all onlookers- and perhaps himself- how good the alternative can be.