History and stats tell us this Open is still wide open
They call Saturday Moving Day but, perhaps, at Carnoustie they should put it back 24 hours.
Expected the unexpected as this fabled links is guaranteed to show its teeth, with the strongest winds of the week forecast around the time the leaders tee it up.
This is the eighth Open played on this course and only one third-round leader has ever gone on to lift the Claret Jug - that was the legendary Ben Hogan on his first and only visit to this event in 1953.
There are 16 players within five shots of leaders Jordan Spieth, Kevin Kisner and Xander Schauffele - the first trio of Americans to front The Open through 54 hours - and history shows they’ve all got a chance.
American Kevin Chappell is flying under the radar this week and insists that is just how he likes it. He finished tied for 53rd and missed the cut in his two previous Open appearances and sits two back.
And then there’s Italian Francesco Molinari - three back on six-under - who won his first PGA Tour event this season and the European PGA Championship at Wentworth. However, with just one top-ten in ten Open appearances what will the pressure do, despite his red-hot form of the last two months?
Which could all be good news for the likes of former Champion Golfers Tiger Woods, Rory McIlroy and Zach Johnson, in a big group that sit four shots back on on five-under, which also includes major winner Webb Simpson, last year’s runner-up Matt Kuchar and in-form Tommy Fleetwood and Alex Noren.
Olympic champion Justin Rose equalled the Open course record with his 64 on Saturday and a repeat of that is going to put him right in contention, with Australia’s Adam Scott another major champion sitting five back and eyeing a Sunday charge.
When Padraig Harrington won in 2007 he came from six shots back to force a play-off with third-round leader Sergio Garcia.
And, of course, Paul Lawrie was a massive ten shots behind when inflicting a similar fate on the unfortunate Jean van de Velde in 1999. Tom Watson was three off the pace heading into the final round in 1975 and Gary Player was two back in 1968.
The leaders are all sat on nine-under, which remains the record 72-hole score for The Open here.
However, it’s possible to shoot low on Sunday, just ask Richard Green whose 64 in 2007 equalled the course record set 24 hours previously by Steve Stricker.
If you are going to make a charge, then you want to pick up your shots early and strap yourselves in for a wild ride home.
The 3rd and 4th are both playing under par while the par-five 6th had seen seven eagles and 130 birdies by the end of the third round.
But the most likely place for a birdie streak is around the turn, the 11th, 13th and 14th all playing under par this week - although the 12th is statistically the hardest hole.
The 513-yard par-five 14th has already seen 28 eagles, only two less than the entire championship in 2007, and 221 birdies, and is playing 250 under par through 54 holes.
But then things get serious - the final three holes are the second, third and fourth hardest holes here, according to NTT Data, an official patron of The Open.
Much has been made about the terror of the 18th, which is dissected by the Barry Burn, perhaps the most innocuous but ultimately terrifying water hazard in golf, with the average score on the par four being 4.61 in 2007.
It’s certainly seen its share of drama at the last two Opens here but, into the wind, the 17th could be just as much of a dream breaker this Sunday.
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