Key questions for final round: Can Spieth be stopped?
Jordan Spieth appears in control as he looks to win The Open for the first time, but much remains to be decided at Royal Birkdale.
Here are five key questions to consider heading into the final round in Southport, where Spieth will begin the day with a three-shot advantage over Matt Kuchar:
Can anyone stop Spieth?
The Texan is making it look easy through 54 holes, combining accurate iron play with timely putting while building a scorecard that has included only four total bogeys. Spieth could join Jack Nicklaus as the only players to win three legs of the career Grand Slam before turning 24, and at this point it seems unlikely that he’ll have a 2016 Masters repeat whereby he regresses back to the field.
Will Kuchar find a way to extend the streak?
Each of the last seven majors have been won by first-time champions, and at age 39 Kuchar is still in search of his first. He put forth an admirable effort Saturday while paired with Spieth, largely keeping pace until a double bogey on the 16th hole, and he remains the only player within six shots of the lead. The Open has been witness to comebacks before – just ask Ernie Els and Paul Lawrie – and Kuchar will hope to follow in their footsteps Sunday.
Can Austin Connelly’s impressive debut continue?
The Canadian lives in Texas and works with Spieth’s swing coach, and after a third-round 66 he finds himself in the penultimate pairing alongside U.S. Open champ Brooks Koepka. Connelly needed to win a 5-for-1 playoff during Final Qualifying at Royal Cinque Ports to simply earn a spot at Royal Birkdale, but now he has a chance to contend for the Claret Jug in his very first Open. Even if he is unable to catch his friend and occasional driving range partner in Spieth, the 20-year-old could take a big step toward securing long-term playing status with a high finish.
What can Branden Grace do for an encore?
The South African dazzled the Southport crowds with his third-round 62 that broke the all-time scoring record for men’s majors. After barely making the cut, Grace now heads into the final round tied for fifth at 4 under as he hopes to chase down the man who edged him for the title at the 2015 U.S. Open. Players often talk of having a difficult time following up a low round, and Grace will certainly face that challenge Sunday with the Claret Jug at stake.
Can a big name mount a rally?
The leaderboard is chock full of star power even beyond Spieth’s name, from world No. 1 Dustin Johnson to Champion Golfer of the Year Henrik Stenson. Given the sheer number of big names inside the top 10 – and the favorable conditions expected for the final round – it stands to reason that someone will step up and put a charge into Royal Birkdale. The only question is who it will be, and whether or not an early starter can even get within arm’s reach of Spieth.