Key questions heading into Round 3 of The 147th Open
Defending Champion Golfer of the Year Jordan Spieth is back in the hunt but he has plenty of company.
Could we see a Spieth-McIlroy duel?
It would be a showdown the world would tune in to watch. Jordan Spieth and Rory McIlroy both put themselves in position heading into the weekend. McIlroy applied two rounds of 69 to put himself two shots off the lead, while Spieth bounced back from an opening-round 72 with a 67 to put himself in a tie for 11th.
Spieth would love to match McIlroy's four major championships, while McIlroy is eager to end a major drought dating back to his banner 2014 campaign when he won the Claret Jug and PGA Championship.
Who can create separation in a crowded chase?
The previous three Opens staged at Carnoustie have needed a playoff to determine a Champion Golfer of the Year. This year's leaderboard halfway through is seriously crowded. Seventeen players were within four shots of the lead as play wound down Friday.
How will contending South African duo hold up into the weekend?
The leaderboard is stacked with major champions and winners on the PGA Tour and European Tour. But in the hunt heading into the weekend, two South African players are vastly unproven.
Zandar Lombard, competing in his second-ever major championship, has missed 11 of the past 13 cuts. Among made cuts however was a 6th place finish at Ballyliffin, a links course, in the Irish Open last month.
Erik Van Rooyen is competing in his first major championship. He won on the Challenge and Sunshine Tours in 2017 and qualified for The Open by finishing runner-up in the Joburg Open, part of The Open Qualifying Series.
"I stayed fairly calm," said Van Rooyen. "I think I missed it in decent spots. I just think you have to get on, get in play off the tee. Otherwise, it's going to be a really tough course."
Gary Player celebrated the 50th anniversary of his Carnoustie triumph this week, and either would be a highly unlikely story to prevail at Carnoustie. But remember, Paul Lawrie was a long shot here in 1999 and walked away with the Claret Jug.
Who can stare down both faces of Carnoustie?
The weather forecast for the weekend features two decidedly different tests: Saturday is expected to be overcast with very little wind, while Sunday is expected to be the windiest and warmest round of the championship. The 147th Open champion will need to demonstrate an ability to attack in benign conditions and possess control under pressure in breezy finish.
Can Rickie Fowler seal the deal?
Rickie Fowler is back in the hunt of a major heading to the weekend. Few players have been in contention more in recent years, but he's watched numerous younger players leap-frog him to a major first. Now, Matt Kuchar, Tony Finau, Tommy Fleetwood, Xander Shauffele and Kevin Kisner are among the major-less contenders who believe it's their turn.
Fowler had a hot start on Friday with birdies on three of his first four holes, but he struggled later, failing to hit many greens, and needed to make a lot of up-and-downs to stay in the hunt. He'll need to show another gear on the weekend and avoid big numbers to finish the job.
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