Burning questions heading into final round of The 147th Open
For those of you who didn't even imbibe in the brown water on Saturday, you likely still felt light-headed watching the third round of The 147th Open unfold.
All the changes and the charges, trying to stay upright watching the upward mobility of some of the game's biggest names including Tiger Woods and Jordan Spieth.
In advance of the final round, here are your most burning questions answered.
Will Jordan Spieth make it back-to-back Opens?
The Golden Boy looks ready to “go get that.” That being the Claret Jug which he was in possession of for a year before returning it in a ceremony at Carnoustie on Monday, an experience he made clear “wasn’t enjoyable.”
Spieth opened The Open with a 1-over 72 thanks largely to a “brain fart” late in his round. He had been moving along nicely at 3 under - just two shots off the early lead - before a double at the par-4 15th. He mis-clubbed himself with both his tee shot and approach into the green, which buried into a pot bunker and took four more swipes to get it in the hole. He added a sloppy bogey at 16 and made another bogey when he found the Barry Burn on 18.
Since the 18th on Thursday? Spieth has only made one other bogey – the 16th on Friday. He was flawless on Saturday in a round of 6-under 65 that included an eagle at No. 1 when he drove the green and made a 15-footer.
If you watched Spieth on Saturday, you would almost forget that he hasn’t won since this championship last year. That look, that swagger is back, and he is certainly relishing the spotlight this week.
There’s plenty of history on the line this week as well. He’s looking to become just the second player to win consecutive Open titles before turning 25 (he turns 25 on July 27). The only other player to ever do that? Young Tom Morris, when he won consecutive Opens in 1868 and ’69. He can also join Young Tom and Woods as the only men in golf history to win a fourth major before the age of 25.
Sends a chill down your spine, doesn’t it?
Does Tiger Woods stand a chance?
It’s a bunched leaderboard and anything can happen on Sunday. Yes, anything … including major No. 15 for Woods, who’s just four shots back through 54 holes. Woods was briefly tied for the lead on Saturday, when he sat at 6 under overall, 14 holes through his third round. When it was all said and done, it was a 5-under 66 for the day - his lowest round in a major in more than seven years. Woods will begin his Sunday quest giving chase.
Of Woods’ previous 14 major victories, he led or co-led through 54 holes in all of them. So, that’s not the best omen, but, we’ve been saying it for months – this is a different Tiger, so perhaps he wins his majors differently this time around, too.
With weather forecasts calling for rain early Sunday and breezy conditions in the afternoon – wind gusts in the 20 mph range – Woods knows he’s still got a chance.
“I didn’t want to be too far back if the guys go to 10 under par today,” Woods said, with 16 groups still out on the course when he finished his third round. “I had to stay within reach, and five is definitely in reach.”
We’ll do you one better, Tig. It’s only a four-shot deficit you face. But the bad news? The man with the lowest final-round scoring average this year on Tour is also a man who’s tied for the lead, four clear of you. That man? Jordan Spieth. Perhaps you’ve heard of him.
Good luck. We’ll all be watching.
Will we see a Vandeveldian finish this year?
We wouldn’t wish that on anyone, but Carnoustie lends itself to theatrics. The three closing holes are among the toughest in all of golf.
During a practice round on Tuesday, Spieth called the tee shot at the par-3 16th “the most difficult tee shot in all of major championship golf.” Rory McIlroy called Nos. 16-18 a “slog.” Zach Johnson said it was “nasty good.” Emphasis on nasty.
With wind a factor, the conclusion to Carnoustie will be anything but easy-breezy.
"It's ideal for Carnoustie to have a bunched leaderboard and 25 mph winds on a Sunday," Spieth said.
There’s only been one major champion in the last 100 years who was outside the top 10 entering Sunday, and that man was Paul Lawrie, the benefactor of Jean Van de Velde’s triple bogey on 18 in 1999.
A look at this year’s leaderboard through 54 holes, five of the top 12 names (all within four of the lead) are proven major champions. The other seven combine for 13 PGA Tour wins. You’d think those credentials equal steely nerves and immunity to pressure, but you and I both know better than that.
Announcers dubbed this course “Car-nicety” on Saturday, as it yielded the only round ever to average under par in the seven previous editions of Opens at Carnoustie at 70.23.
Come Sunday, Car-nicety could turn Car-naughty. (And you thought I was going to say "Car-nasty", didn’t you?)
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