Six things we learned from the third round at The Open
It was the lowest scoring day in Open history and we witnessed the lowest score in men's major championship history. Can more history be made on Sunday, with Jordan Spieth leading by three shots?
Jordan Spieth will take some beating
As Jordan Spieth strode towards the 1st tee just before 4pm, the course was abuzz with new challengers emerging, and those in the hunt were already putting the squeeze on the the 23-year-old American.
It can’t have been easy to watch all of the morning’s low scores come in from the clubhouse, and there was a feeling in the air that a comeback could be on the cards – with the outright 36-hole leader winning just six times at The Open in the last 50 years.
But as soon as he struck his first tee shot, Spieth started to drain the life out of the rest of the challengers still on the course at Royal Birkdale, who would only see pars and red numbers next to his name.
Frustration started to creep in for those in the hunt as Spieth’s relentless play kept them at arm’s length throughout the afternoon, and now he is in pole position to claim his third major title – six of nine 54-hole leaders of The Open at Royal Birkdale have gone on to win.
Give them half a chance, and Tour golfers will take full advantage
After the howling wind and bucketing rain almost blew them off the course yesterday, the field seemed desperate for redemption when balmy conditions returned on Saturday.
The scoring average for round one was 72, round two was 74, but on Saturday several players tore through the links to make the average score an impressive 69.03.
That’s the lowest-scoring round in The Open since the Championship went to 72 holes in 1892, beating the 69.4 average at Turnberry in 1994.
It was target practice out there, and these guys don’t often miss.
It’s never too late to make a charge
Branden Grace started Saturday’s round four-and-a-half hours before the leaders and eleven shots off the pace.
But come 3.15pm the South African completed a sublime two-putt from the back of the 18th green to seal an historic 62 – becoming the first man ever to shoot the elusive number in a major championship.
That catapulted him up the field into a tie for fourth place at the close of play, and reminded everyone else out on the links that anything might be possible on Sunday.
World number one Dustin Johnson looked like he might be on course to break Grace’s record just an hour or so after it was set, but even though he finished with just one birdie in his final eight holes, he still is in contention after a six-under-par 64, three-under par overall.
What a difference 20 yards makes…
Sergio Garcia showed he was willing to take on the short par four 5th hole on Friday and reaped the rewards, but not many of his colleagues followed suit.
During the third round, with the tee moved forward a deliciously tempting 20 yards, far fewer players could resist and it made for some interesting viewing.
Jordan Spieth – leading the tournament – saw no need to take the risk, but those trying to force themselves into the reckoning had almost no option.
Four eagles were made in total by Rickie Fowler (who came within an inch of carding an albatross hole-in-one), Matthew Fitzpatrick, Matthew Southgate, and Andrew Dodt – but that doesn’t tell half the story.
Plenty more contenders cut the corner and were rewarded with birdies, 29 to be precise, with the average score for the hole 3.60.
Stenson really doesn’t want to give the Claret Jug back
Henrik Stenson revealed earlier in the week that he already has plans for the Claret Jug should he defend his crown this year.
After taking the most famous trophy in golf jet-skiing last year, the enigmatic Swede has promised to go skydiving with it should he become Champion Golfer for the second time running.
And it was on moving day when he planted his flag in the soil, charging up the leaderboard with a magnificent five-under par 65 that included just one solitary bogey.
Behind Branden Grace and Dustin Johnson it was the third-best round of the day, and with the bit between his teeth Stenson can never be ruled out.
Dreams do come true
Royal Birkdale club-pro Gregg Pettersen would have been silently hoping for an odd number of players to make the cut throughout Thursday and Friday’s opening round.
And with South Africa’s Shaun Norris needing a marker for the morning’s opening game, the 38-year-old was only too happy to oblige and leave pro-shop duty to someone else for the day.
While no-one was keeping Pettersen’s score, he got the chance to do what most of us can only dream of and play in The Open – and he reckons he shot ‘four or five-over-par’.
On Sunday, Pettersen will be back in the shop, and his colleague Nick Jennings will be the lucky man to partner Danny Willett, last year's Masters champion.
“I’ve had my fun,” said Pettersen. “Now it’s time for his. I know he’ll have a great time.”