Key questions for Round 3: Can Poulter rekindle Birkdale magic?
Jordan Spieth holds a two-shot lead at the halfway point of The Open, but there is still plenty to decide.
Here are some key questions to consider heading into the third round at Royal Birkdale, where only nine players will start the day in red figures:
Can Ian Poulter rekindle the Birkdale magic?
Poulter put on a furious final-round rally to snag runner-up honors the last time The Open was held at Royal Birkdale in 2008. This time he’s playing from the front of the pack, tied for third at 3 under and three shots behind Spieth. The Englishman nearly lost his PGA Tour card earlier this season, but a runner-up finish at the Players Championship appears to have gotten him back on track as he heads into the weekend with a great shot at his first major title.
Will Matt Kuchar’s consistency continue?
Kuchar has based his career around solid but unspectacular play, and that style often bodes well when it comes to links golf. The veteran tied for fourth last week at the Aberdeen Asset Management Scottish Open but now has another chance at an elusive major, this time in a tournament where he has managed only one career top-10 finish. Despite a second-round 71, Kuchar will feature in Saturday’s final pairing alongside Spieth and appears firmly in control of his game.
Has Rory McIlroy sparked a turnaround?
McIlroy appeared headed for the exits after playing his first six holes Thursday in 5 over, but after a pep talk from caddie J.P. Fitzgerald he rallied and now suddenly will enter the third round in a tie for sixth, just four shots back. McIlroy has spoken for weeks that the form is closer than his recent results have indicated, and he has a golden opportunity to prove that point as he looks to lift the Claret Jug for the second time.
Can a big name make a Saturday charge?
While Spieth and McIlroy stand out among the players who are under par through two rounds, a number of big names will look to kick-start a rally Saturday morning. Jason Day made the cut on the number, as did Englishmen Justin Rose and Tommy Fleetwood who will play the third round together. So too will Sergio Garcia and Rickie Fowler, both eight shots back at 2 over alongside Champion Golfer of the Year Henrik Stenson, while world No. 2 Hideki Matsuyama still lurks at Even.
Which surprise will endure?
A leaderboard with plenty of star-power also includes a few unexpected names, as Scotland’s Richie Ramsay sits alone in fifth place at 2 under. He’ll play the third round alongside Canadian Austin Connelly, who shot rounds of 67-72 in his Open debut and stands among a group at 1 under that also includes Richard Bland, who is making his first Open appearance since he teed it up at Royal Birkdale in 1998.