Carnoustie - Jordan Spieth is dreaming of retaining the Claret Jug after
a standout third round at The Open on Saturday left him in a share of
the overall lead with fellow Americans Xander Schauffele and Kevin Kisner.
The trio were locked together on nine under par at the end
of a thrilling day in perfect conditions at Carnoustie, but at least a dozen
other players are still right in contention, among them Tiger Woods after he
rolled back the years on the Scottish links.
Spieth had started the day at three-under for the
tournament, but made his intentions clear with a stunning eagle at the par-4
first hole - the rest of his round featured four birdies and not a single
dropped shot for a six-under-par 65.
Now he finds himself primed to follow up his victory at
Royal Birkdale 12 months ago and become the first golfer to retain the British
Open title since Padraig Harrington a decade ago.
"I feel like my game's in good shape. It's progressed
nicely. We've got pretty much a new tournament tomorrow," said Spieth, who
had popped into Carnoustie town centre for a haircut before his round.
Spieth would never admit if that was in order to look smart
for the victory photos on Sunday, and in any case he is not getting ahead of
himself given how tight the leaderboard is, and that the wind is finally
expected to pick up.
"I'm not ahead of myself at all. I just wanted to give
myself a chance after the first round (he was at one-over), and I've done well
over the two days," he added.
Kisner, with whom Spieth is sharing a house in Scotland this
week, had started the day in a share of the lead with Zach Johnson and cemented
his strong position with a bogey-free 68.
"Today was the most solid tee to green I've played all
week," said Kisner, who has never won a major, although he also led going
into the final round of last year's US PGA Championship before finishing tied
Meanwhile Schauffele, at 24 the same age as Spieth, shot a
67 to considerably boost his own chances of a first major victory.
With Kevin Chappell the nearest challenger to the leading
trio on seven-under, the prospects of a sixth consecutive major being won by an
American are high, but there is still hope for the European contingent.
Italy's Francesco Molinari had a bogey-free 65 and is
six-under, while Sweden's Alex Noren is at five-under along with Rory McIlroy
and Tommy Fleetwood.
The latter two were unable to convert positions of strength,
with McIlroy's 70 featuring four bogeys and Fleetwood having an inconsistent
"We'll see. The wind is supposed to pick up, so that
might be a helping hand," said Fleetwood of his chances of becoming the
first English winner of the Claret Jug since Nick Faldo in 1992.
The group on five-under also includes Johnson and Woods, who
captivated huge galleries as he shot a 66, arguably his best round in a major
for a decade.
Woods even had luck on his side at the 18th, when his drive
landed a foot away from the Barry Burn only to bounce away from the water to
the relative safety of the long grass - he then salvaged a par after a
tremendous approach shot.
"That was good. I played well today. I really did. I
hit a lot of good shots. I really didn't feel like I really made a bad swing
until 18," he said.
Woods is still a huge draw, with his playing partner, South
Africa's Shaun Norris saying it was "like playing with a mythical
creature", and if he can emerge from the pack to win the title on Sunday
it would probably be his greatest victory yet.
History shows that almost anything can happen at Carnoustie,
where Paul Lawrie won in a playoff in 1999 after starting the day 10 shots
Even those in the large group at four-under will still
believe in their chances, including England's Justin Rose, who produced a
seven-under-par 64 early in the day.
That equalled the lowest round in an Open at Carnoustie set
by Steve Stricker and Richard Green here in 2007.