Saturday, 22 July 2017
Spieth  (Getty Images)
Spieth (Getty Images)

Jordan Spieth will take a three-shot lead into the final round of the 146th Open Championship after firing a brilliant 65 on day three at Royal Birkdale.

The American entered the day two shots clear of countryman Matt Kuchar but looked set to be overshadowed by Branden Grace who recorded the first 62 in Major Championship history before the leaders had teed off.

The Ryder Cup team-mates followed that with an intriguing nip-and-tuck afternoon of golf that ended with Spieth at 11 under, three ahead of Kuchar and six shots clear of next nearest challengers Brooks Koepka and Austin Connelly.

Grace was then at four under alongside World Number Two Hideki Matsuyama but all eyes will be on Spieth on Sunday as he goes in search of a third Major Championship, a first Claret Jug and the third leg of the career grand slam.

"A really solid round given the position we were in starting the day," said Spieth. "I'm extremely pleased, couldn't ask for much more.

"I feel very confident in the way I've been striking my irons. If that continues and I feel that way as we get in our warm-up and then early in the round tomorrow then I can play more conservatively off the tee and take a lot of those bunkers out of play and that's obviously very important.

"I think it will be easier than today to get out there and play a bit safer because I don't think it will be as scoreable as it was today."

It was Kuchar who made the first move with a smart birdie putt on the second and while Spieth put his approach to the third to tap-in range, Kuchar followed him in.

A three-putt from Kuchar on the fourth extended Spieth's lead to two but the 39 year old drove the fifth and got down in two to keep the pressure on the leader.

Spieth hit an excellent tee-shot into the par three seventh to once again have a cushion and while Kuchar briefly got within one on the eighth, Spieth followed him in as the two went blow-for blow.

Both players made five pars in a row before Kuchar holed an 18-footer on the 14th to cut the gap and when they both then took advantage of the par five 15th, they were puling away.

Kuchar soon fell back towards the pack, though, as a poor tee-shot and three putts led to a double-bogey and Spieth led by three.

That was cut to two as Kuchar got up and down from a bunker on the 17th with Spieth failing to do so, but a brilliant clutch putt from the leader on the last brought a fifth birdie of the day and restored his cushion.

US Open champion Koepka had bogeyed the first but he holed a lengthy putt on the third and when he followed it up with further gains on the fourth and fifth he was on the move. A bogey on the seventh threatened to stall his momentum but he bounced back with a birdie and turned in 32. He dropped a shot on the 13th but took advantage of the two pars fives before a closing bogey.

Challenge Tour Member Connelly birdied the first and made a spectacular eagle on the second as his approach from the fairway took one bounce before finding the bottom of the cup. Bogeys followed on the third and eighth but he picked up further shots on the ninth, 17th and last.

Grace made birdies on the first, fourth, fifth, eighth and ninth to turn in 29 before recording four pars. A good tee-shot set up a birdie on the par three 14th but when he failed to take advantage of the gettable par five next, his chances of a place in the history books took a major blow.

The South African bounced back brilliantly, holing a 35-foot putt on the 16th, and when he hit the 17th green in two and rolled his third to the side of the cup he just needed a par up the last, which he sealed with an impressive two-putt from the fringe.

Matsuyama bogeyed the fourth but hit straight back with a hat-trick of birdies and made further gains on the 14th and 17th.

Henrik Stenson kept his hopes of defending his title just about alive with a 65 that saw him turn in 32 with three birdies and a bogey before adding further gains on the 12th, 14th and 15th to get to three under.

Aberdeen Asset Management Scottish Open champion Rafa Cabrera Bello bogeyed the second but hit back with birdies on the sixth, 13th, 17th and 18th while World Number One Dustin Johnson fired a 64 with birdies on the first, fourth, fifth, seventh, tenth and 15th.

American Chan Kim was also at three under, a shot clear of Rory McIlroy, Ross Fisher, Ian Poulter and Richie Ramsay.

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Tournament Leaderboard

Pos Player nameNatHolePar
1SPIETH, JordanUSA18-12
2KUCHAR, MattUSA18-9
3LI, HaotongCHN18-6
T4MCILROY, RoryNIR18-5
T4CABRERA BELLO, RafaESP18-5
T6SOUTHGATE, MatthewENG18-4

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