Carnoustie, 21 July 2018: It was a tame Saturday at the Carnoustie Golf Links in Angus, Scotland. The winds were down, the pins accessible and the players took advantage. There were as many as 28 scores below 70 in the third round, with Justin Rose making a 64. The Englishman only made the cut on the number after making a long putt at the 18th on Friday. And now he is well inside the top twenty. It was that kind of day at Carnoustie.
Jordan Spieth put on a masterclass, tee to green, to surge into the lead at 9-under 204, with a 65 in the third round. Xander Schauffele and Kevin Kisner went about their business with single-minded focus even as Spieth and Tiger Woods marched away with all the noise and attention. The troika will start Sunday with a two-stroke lead over Kevin Chappell and three over Francesco Molinari.
Molinari did barely anything over the first two days, but rose to the occasion on Saturday to produce a brilliant 65 that put him in the mix for Sunday. Chappell also joined the party at the top with a 67 and has a one stroke advantage over the Italian.
The Open Championship came to a higher life on Saturday afternoon, even if only briefly. Tiger Woods fired six birdies and his spotless march up the ranks had Carnoustie moaning in pleasure. It lasted only for a bit though, as Woods made a bogey at the par-3 16th to fall back to five under.
Woods shot 66 in the third round and held a share of the lead for a while. As it is, he is lying T6 with Webb Simpson, Alex Noren, Matt Kuchar, Rory McIlroy, Tommy Fleetwood and Zach Johnson. Woods has never won a major while he was trailing after 54 holes. A fifteenth on Sunday will not only break a ten-year drought but also give him his first come from behind victory in a major.
“That was good, that was good,” Tiger said, with just a touch of relief. “It’s been a few years since I’ve felt like this.
“Given what happened last few years, I didn’t know if that would ever happen again but here I am with a chance on a Sunday in a major championship. It’s going to be fun.
“I didn’t want to be too far back and I’m definitely in reach. I’m right there. I’ve got a chance at this, which is great.
“I didn’t know I was tied for the lead at one point, I knew I was within one. We’re not there yet, let me try and get there first.”
The bunched up leaderboard and the forecasted 25 miles an hour winds promise to set the stage for a grandstand finish to the 147th Open Championship on Sunday. Seven of the top twelve men lining up the top of the leaderboard will step out looking for their first major title. The lead, 9-under, is the lowest ever 54 hole total at the Carnoustie Golf Links.
“The way that Tiger is striking those two or three irons, he’s certainly going to be in it, which is really exciting for us,” said Spieth.
“I’ve always wanted to battle it out in a major with Tiger. Who hasn’t? It’s kind of a dream come true just to have the opportunity.
“It’s nice that he’s on point. It’s really good for the sport, with all the extra interest. It’s very cool looking at it from a big picture, but my head will be down.
“There’s a lot of guys in contention but we’ll have a totally different golf course tomorrow with the wind.”