Round 3 notable notes: McIlroy stalls out
Here are notes on several marquee names from the third round in Southport, including Rory McIlroy, who stalled out after a hot start.
It was an eventful third round at The Open, where Jordan Spieth remains the man to beat.
Spieth holds a three-shot lead entering the final round at Royal Birkdale, having taken a significant step toward lifting the Claret Jug for the first time. Here are notes on several other marquee names heading into the final round in Southport:
Rory McIlroy stalls out. It looked like a promising start for the 2014 Champion Golfer of the Year, who birdied the first hole and chipped in for birdie on No. 4. But McIlroy made a pair of front-nine bogeys and suffered a costly double bogey on No. 10 after getting hung up in a fairway bunker. While it’s still a better position than expected given his disastrous start to the opening round, McIlroy trails by nine shots after a third-round 70 ended his realistic chances of earning another year with the Claret Jug.
Brooks Koepka still eyes a back-to-back. A closing bogey may have proved costly for the U.S. Open champ, but Koepka will still be a part of Sunday’s penultimate pairing as he starts the day six shots behind Spieth. Koepka got to within two shots of the lead on the front nine, but he’ll need some help if he wants to become the seventh man to win the U.S. Open and The Open in the same summer.
Dustin Johnson mounts a rally. As Branden Grace was closing out his record-setting 62, it looked for a brief moment like the world No. 1 would join him in the history books. While Johnson settled for a 64 – if there is such a thing as settling for a 64 – he vaulted from the middle of the pack onto the front page of the leaderboard. He might need an even better effort Sunday in order to chase down Spieth, but Johnson is at least in position for his fourth top-10 finish at The Open since a runner-up performance in 2011.
Ian Poulter fades from the spotlight. Poulter declared to the media after the second round that he would chase down Spieth and Matt Kuchar, but amid a sea of red figures he moved in the wrong direction Saturday. The Englishman bogeyed the opening hole, the first of five bogeys en route to a 1-over 71 that dropped him into a tie for 11th at 2 under. It seemingly ensures that the English drought in The Open, a streak that dates back to Nick Faldo’s win at Muirfield in 1992, will endure at least another year.
Henrik Stenson won’t go down without a fight. The big Swede is still the current Champion Golfer of the Year for one more day, and Stenson joined Johnson at 3 under after shooting a 65 in the third round. Stenson made only one bogey and bettered his second-round total by eight shots. He likely won’t be matching Padraig Harrington’s title defense efforts at Royal Birkdale 10 years ago, but it’s clear that off-course distractions earlier in the week didn’t affect his third-round performance.