Australia’s Adam Scott edged one step closer to becoming the 16th different winner in the last 16 Majors when he carded a two-under-par 68 to claim a four shot lead heading into the final round of the 141st Open Championship at Royal Lytham & St Annes.
The 31-year-old from Adelaide started the round one shot behind America’s Brandt Snedeker but quickly took control by firing three birdies around the turn and went on to play steady golf in his quest to win a first Major title
Scott will go into the final round four shots ahead of Snedeker and Graeme McDowell and five in front of Tiger Woods.
It allows him a great chance to emulate his mentor Peter Thomson who won his fourth of five Open victories on the same Lancashire course back in 1958.
Scott has won eight times on both the European Tour and PGA Tour and he looked every bit a bone fide superstar as he proceeded to build on the 64 and 67 he registered over the opening two rounds.
He took a while to get started but once he made his first advance of the day with a birdie on the par-5 seventh, there seemed no stopping him as he romped round the turn with further birdies on the 8th and 11th.
He did drop a shot when he missed a five-footer for a par on the 355-yard par-4 13th but saved par from the sand on the 17th and then completed his round with a regulation par down the last
“I played a good solid round and would say that the 68 was a pretty good reflection of the way I played,” he said.
“I was excited but nervous going to the first tee this afternoon and expect to feel much the same tomorrow.
“It’s slightly comforting to know no-one went really low today,” he added.
“I truly believe I can go out and play a great round tomorrow and if I do that I will make it hard for the others.”
McDowell started the day six shots out of the lead and without a win since 2010 when he claimed the Celtic Manor Wales Open, the US Open, the Andalucia Valderrama Masters and the Chevron World Challenge.
He has been performing somewhat under the radar for much of the time since he achieved his first Major victory but a tie for second place at the recent US Open suggested something was stirring and in front of 37,800 excited fans at Lytham he built on opening rounds of 67 and 69 with another 67 which culminated with four birdies in his last nine holes.
“Today I said 68 or 69 was my target and that’s what I have done.” said the Northern Irishman who will go out in the last group for a second consecutive Major.
“The golf course is still a sleeping giant. It has certainly played a lot easier than we thought it would in practice but that’s supposed to change tomorrow.
“It’s in Adam’s hands tomorrow if the conditions are as straightforward as they have been the last few days. But throw in a bit of wind across this course and he will have to work a lot harder.
“We need a bit of wind to make the job a little easier for the chasers.”
Snedeker started his third round solidly enough but he dropped his first shot to par on what was his 41st hole of the Championship and then recorded his first five on the next where he found sand for the first time.
The American redeemed himself with a birdie on the 7th but then promptly started to unravel with bogeys on the 8th, 9th, 11th and 14th before climbing back into a tie for second with two birdies in his last three holes.
“It was just one of those days,” admitted the second round leader. “I played very poorly on the holes you are supposed to score on and I’m not very happy.
“But those two late birdies salvaged something from what could have been a horrific round so I still have a chance tomorrow.
“The conditions are supposed to be tough which is good. It would be kind of tough if it stays calm because Adam didn’t show a whole lot of weaknesses today. It was a clinic out there for most of the round.”
Tiger Woods has never won a Major when he started the final round behind the leaders but that is exactly what he will have to do after a recording a level par 70 in which he promised much but delivered little.
“I did not get off to a very good start,” he admitted after dropping two shots in his first five holes. “I fought back but just didn’t get anything going on the back nine.
“I thought I had a couple of good looks at some putts but didn’t make them. “Tomorrow I am going to have to go out and execute my game plan and see what happens
“Adam is in a great spot right now,” he added. “He’s got a four shot lead and he’s playing really well. He’s going for his first Major title so he’s in a very good spot.”
Further down the leaderboard two former Major champions, Ernie Els and Zach Johnson share fifth place on five under par 205 while surprise package, Thorbjorn Olesen from Denmark is one shot further back after a 71.