Open Championship

Spieth goes 3 clear at Royal Birkdale

2017-07-22 21:04
Jordan Spieth (Getty Images)

Southport - Jordan Spieth produced yet another majestic round of golf on Saturday as he closed in on his third major title at the British Open while South Africa's Branden Grace made major championship history.

Grace became the first player ever to shoot a 62 in a major as he rocketed up the leaderboard from nowhere at Royal Birkdale to give himself an outside chance of winning one of the sport's biggest prizes for the first time.

But it really is just an outside chance, for him and the rest of the chasing pack, after Spieth built on his two-stroke overnight lead to shoot a bogey-free 65 and climb to 11 under par for the championship.

Spieth, the 2015 Masters and US Open champion, leads by three from his fellow American Matt Kuchar, who sits at eight under par.

Austin Connelly of Canada and Brooks Koepka, the current US Open champion, are joint third at five-under.

"It was a really solid round given the position we were in at the start of the day. I'm extremely pleased. I couldn't have asked for much more," said Spieth.

He kept the field at bay all day, but the final outcome of this Open could hinge on events at the 18th as the clock ticked towards 20:00 local time on Saturday.

Kuchar missed a golden chance for a birdie after coming close to holing his approach shot on the last, while Spieth converted a more difficult birdie opportunity to extend his advantage.

Before that Spieth had picked up three birdies on the front nine and another at the par-five 15th, while Kuchar was slightly more erratic.

The giant 39-year-old had seven birdies, but also a bogey at the short 4th hole and a double-bogey at 16 after finding a bunker from the tee.

Kuchar is still by far the best-placed to deny Spieth, though, and the duo will again go out together in the final pairing on Sunday afternoon.

"Our game plan when we stood on the first tee was, 'let's push each other to separate and get this pairing tomorrow'. That's kind of what we wanted to do," admitted Spieth.

"The fewer people towards the top, or at least a bit of separation, is definitely a more comfortable feeling."

Koepka's round of 68, which included a bogey at 18, was not enough to turn up the pressure, although there was movement behind him.

World number two Hideki Matsuyama of Japan went round in 66 to quietly climb to four-under alongside Grace, whose unprecedented effort lit up Birkdale earlier.

The South African took advantage of benign conditions that were a world away from the rain and wind which rendered shot-making almost impossible on Friday.

His eight-under-par round, featuring eight birdies and no dropped shots, saw him rocket up to four-under overall.

There had been 31 rounds of 63 in the previous 441 major championships, with 10 coming in the British Open including Phil Mickelson and Henrik Stenson last year at Troon, but never a 62.

And yet Grace, the 29-year-old ranked 35th in the world, later admitted he had been blissfully unaware of what he had achieved until his caddie informed him after he crucially saved par on 18.

"I was just so in the zone of playing, hole after hole. I knew I was obviously playing really well, and making the turn in five-under was pretty special," he said.

"And I thought if I could make a couple more on the back nine, then it's going to be a great score. I had no idea that 62 was the lowest ever."

The round also broke Jodie Mudd's course record of 63, set in the final round of the Open in 1991.

Grace's showing certainly outshone the efforts of world number one Dustin Johnson, who fired a bogey-free six-under-par 64 to go three-under and give himself a glimmer of hope.

"I'm going to need to shoot probably nine-under, I would imagine, to get to 12. I think that would be a decent number to sit in the clubhouse at," said the languid American, but even that may not be enough.

Read more on:    open championship  |  jordan spieth  |  golf
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