SOUTHPORT, England — Jordan Spieth is one spherical away from the third leg of the profession Grand Slam, and one 12 months faraway from a reminder that it gained’t be simple.
On the horizon is an opportunity to affix Jack Nicklaus as the one gamers to win three completely different majors at age 23. Up to now was his final time main a significant, when he let a five-shot lead get away from him on the again 9 a 12 months in the past at Augusta Nationwide.
All that mattered to him was the current.
Spieth did his half on a unprecedented day of scoring within the British Open, capping off his 5-under 65 by seizing on a superb break and making a 20-foot birdie putt on the 18th gap for a three-shot lead over Matt Kuchar, who did his greatest to maintain tempo with a 66.
Spieth had considered one of seven rounds at 65 or decrease at Royal Birkdale, which was by no means extra weak with a light-weight breeze and a transparent sky till the ultimate hour. He was warming up on the vary when Branden Grace shot 62, the bottom 18-hole rating over 157 years of main championships. Spieth then delivered his second bogey-free spherical of the week wherein he by no means got here severely near a bogey.
“Fairly stress-free,” Spieth mentioned. “On a Saturday with a lead in a significant, that’s nearly as good as I can ask for.”
He was at 11-under 199, breaking by six photographs the 54-hole report at Royal Birkdale that Tom Watson set in 1983. Not solely did that final birdie give him a three-shot lead, nobody else was nearer than six photographs.
This shall be Spieth’s third time taking the lead into the ultimate spherical of a significant. He led by 4 on the Masters two years in the past and gained by that margin. More moderen was a one-shot lead at Augusta to begin the ultimate spherical, a five-shot lead on the flip and a quadruple-bogey on the 12th gap that price him one other inexperienced jacket.
Spieth was embracing each reminiscences.
“I believe I’m ready the place it may be very advantageous, simply every thing I’ve gone by means of — the nice, the unhealthy and every thing within the center,” he mentioned. “I perceive that leads will be squandered shortly. And I additionally perceive how one can carry on rolling on one.”
He described the Masters final 12 months as a humbling expertise that he thought would serve him nicely down the highway.
“If I don’t win tomorrow, it has nothing to do with that,” he mentioned. “And if I win tomorrow, it has nothing to do with that, both.”
Kuchar by no means fairly caught as much as Spieth. He twice made birdies that momentarily tied him for the lead, just for Spieth to pour in birdie putts on high of him to remain in entrance. Kuchar’s one slip was a drive into the pot bunker on No. 16 when the rain lastly arrived, and a three-putt that led to double bogey.
He shall be taking part in within the ultimate group of the fourth spherical at a significant for the primary time, and the 39-year-old Kuchar sounded up for the event.
“It’s not that I ever felt like I used to be taking part in Jordan in the present day,” Kuchar mentioned. “We definitely had an excellent spherical of golf. I by no means felt like I used to be on the market making an attempt to beat Jordan. It’s making an attempt to go up in opposition to Royal Birkdale and placed on the very best present you may in opposition to the golf course.”
Nobody placed on a present fairly like Grace, the 29-year-old South African who had an opportunity to win the U.S. Open two years in the past. He went out in 29, then added two lengthy birdie putts on the 14th and 16th holes, and a two-putt birdie on the 17th to succeed in eight below. From 60 toes behind the 18th inexperienced, he lagged it to 2 toes and tapped in for a 62.
“Have a look at that quantity! That’s candy,” Johnny Miller, now a golf analyst, mentioned as NBC flashed a 62 on the display screen. Miller was the primary to shoot 63 in a significant on the 1973 U.S. Open at Oakmont. It took 44 years for somebody to high it.
Spieth and Kuchar lit it up, too. They mixed for 12 birdies, such spectacular golf that Kuchar mentioned a few occasions they forgot who had honours on the tee field. Alongside the best way, they created a little bit separation from the remainder of the sphere.
Austin Connelly, a twin Canadian-American citizen who grew up in Dallas and shares a swing coach with Spieth, prolonged his exceptional run with birdies on his final two holes for a 66. The 20-year-old who performs below the Canadian flag was six photographs behind at 5-under 205, tied with U.S. Open champion Brooks Koepka, who had a 68.
Grace wound up seven photographs behind even after his 62.
Lacking from the combo was Rory McIlroy, who an enormous risk when he started with three birdies in 5 holes, driving the inexperienced on the shortened par-Four fifth gap. He misplaced it across the flip, making back-to-back bogeys, after which a double bogey at No. 10 when he blasted out of 1 pot bunker left of the golf green and it spun towards one other, resting within the thick collar.
McIlroy had a 69, not often a foul rating within the third spherical of a significant. This one left him 9 photographs behind.
“When you maintain it in play, it’s virtually arduous to make a bogey on the market, you understand?” McIlroy mentioned. “I’ve all the time been good once I get off to quick begins, having the ability to maintain it going, and I didn’t in the present day. And I wanted to — that’s the disappointing factor.”
Ian Poulter felt even worse. Nonetheless lurking, he ran off three straight bogeys early on the again 9 and shot 71 to fall 9 again.
The tone for Sunday was set over the ultimate three holes, when Kuchar made his double bogey. Kuchar bought one again with a birdie from the pot bunker wanting the inexperienced on the par-5 17th. After which Spieth stole a birdie on the finish when his method narrowly missed the bunker proper of the inexperienced and had sufficient spin to remain on the placing floor for his ultimate birdie. Kuchar missed his birdie try from 12 toes.
“I performed nicely in the present day,” Kuchar mentioned. “Definitely, I’m not out of it. I’m taking part in some good golf. I’m very excited for tomorrow.”
Each took time to cease and soak in the very best stroll in golf, a full grandstand surrounding each side of the 18th. Kuchar stopped and mentioned to Spieth, “That is fairly cool to be right here, strolling up the final gap of a British Open.”
They get to do it once more Sunday, with much more at stake than heat applause.